[Nueces County] Sheriff [Jim] Kaelin has been pushing for jail expansion for some time with little success. Now, he's found at least one ally among county commissioners who says there is a way to do it without costing taxpayers money.Any time a politician says they can build a new jail "without costing taxpayers money," you can be sure of two things: That politician is feeding you a line of bull and taxpayers will be left holding the bag in the end.
"We have quite a bit of space out there where we can expand dormitory type rooms for maintaining prisoners that are low-risk caliber, and that would free up space here at our main jail and allow us to bring in more federal prisoners," County Commissioner Mike Pusley said.
Those federal prisoners are key in the proposed plan. Pusley said the $60 per day federal inmates could pick up most of the tab for expansion.
As is typically the case, the suggestion for jail expansion ignores the underlying cause of jail overcrowding - decisions by local judges to require excessive pretrial detention. As of Aug 1, according to the Commission on Jail Standards, about 62% of Nueces County inmates have been convicted of no crime but are being held in jail pending trial because they couldn't make bail. Eighteen percent of county inmates were folks being held pretrial on misdemeanor charges. It would be far more fiscally responsible to eschew new jail building and instead fund programming to reduce pretrial detention for low-risk defendants. That's not as simplistic a fix, but it's a much smarter one that keeps the focus on public safety without needlessly boosting local property taxes.