Upon its completion, the Lubbock County Detention Center was estimated to be able to house 200 federal inmates in addition to its regular inmate population. With federal inmates, comes federal dollars.The truth is officials are understating what a boondoggle the new jail turned out to be. When Lubbock officials took the project to voters for approval, they suggested that the jail would pay for itself by leasing excess space to the feds, the state and other counties, as well as leasing out beds in the old jail downtown. When the new jail opened, though, there weren't any contracts available for the extra beds and the downtown facility was closed. Clearly counties that hoped to profiteer from housing contract inmates miscalculated. The bubble has burst and there's simply not enough demand from the feds or anybody else to fill all the overbuilt jails around the state.
However, according to Lubbock County Sheriff Kelly Rowe, the current average population of federal inmates at the detention center is only 70.
"It is something that does help offset the general fund budget when we do have any additional fund revenue coming in," Rowe said.
County Commissioner Patti Jones said that does pose a small problem because the number of federal inmates was expected to be much higher last year.
"So yea, when the number is down like this it does affect us on our budget. We still try to budget pretty conservative, even at that point, but again, until we see what the final numbers end up being at the end of the year, we very much so could see a shortfall in what we had budgeted for 2011.
See related Grits posts:
- Private prison bubble bursting; empty, speculative jails in Texas
- Speculative Lubbock jail opens with no prisoners to fill it
- Lubbock taxpayers eating costs for overbuilt jail
- Jail costs driving tax hikes in Lubbock
- NPR investigates Lubbock's bail system: Should taxpayers foot $7k incarceration bill for stealing $30 worth of blankets?