Monday, December 11, 2006

Nacogdoches: Pretrial detention causing jail overcrowding

In Nacogdoches, departing County Judge Sue Kennedy has developed a "white paper" suggesting overcrowding solutions, and will meet today with District Judge Campbell Cox II to incorporate his suggestions. Building a bigger jail, she thinks, isn't the best option. Reported the Daily Sentinel ("County looking at ways to ease jail overcrowding," 12-11):

"We have been very reluctant to spend money on jail expansion because, after the initial construction cost, we would burden the local taxpayers with a significant yearly increase in operational cost," she said.

Nacogdoches County would spend about $750,000 more per year to operate a facility with 96 more beds, she said, a figure which does not include the cost of construction. Kennedy and Cox both agree the county should try to cut the amount of time inmates spend waiting for trials.

The suggestion to focus on reducing pretrial detention jibes with Grits' earlier analysis of Nacogdoches' overincarceration woes. On November 1, I wrote:
A decade ago 30% of jail inmates statewide were incarcerated awaiting trial; today the figure is about 48%. But in Nacogdoches County, a whopping 68% of jail inmates are incarcerated awaiting trial - mostly because they couldn't make bail. Nearly half of those are misdemeanor defendants, many of whom would be released pending trial in other counties. (Source: monthly jail population report.)
I forwarded that blog post to members of the Nacogdoches Commissioners Court and the Sentinel reporter, but never received any response. Still, it sounds like they're on the right track to identifying fresh overcrowding solutions. Perhaps I'll contact Judge Kennedy today to ask for a copy of her white paper. It sounds like we might agree on a few things.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link to the monthly jail report. Interesting data there.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

You bet. FYI it's permanently in the sidebar to the right under the headline "Non-Bloggy Places I Go." Best,