Tuesday, December 07, 2010

'Nuther empty jail, built on spec, can't find contract prisoners

Another speculative county jail facility, this time in Bell County, can't find contract prisoners to fill it now that the project is complete, reports a local TV station:
More than $5 million has gone into remodeling a Bell County jail that remains vacant and may not have a need for inmates for at least two years.
The Central Jail on Central Avenue in Belton has undergone extensive renovation since inmates were transferred to the new Justice Complex in 2009.  However, the county had hoped the new-look, $5.7 million facility would bring in inmates from neighboring counties, and more revenue, but those counties are making other plans.
The reason for building a second jail instead of just rehabbing the old one was so the county could generate revenue from outside contracts, but that strategy has clearly (and predictably) backfired.

This is becoming repetitive. Just a few years ago counties across the state were seeking to build extra jail space, believing it would become a profit center through which they could compete with the private prison market for contract beds. Now, though, the incarceration bubble is beginning to burst and many of those facilities built on spec are sitting empty, with counties losing money hand over fist.

If it weren't such a catastrophe for taxpayers, I'd say it served them right.

See related Grits posts:


Anonymous said...

give it time. with the economy in turmoil people will stay deviant. oh yeah here comes santa clause, time to beat the wife and steal the gifts and break into the empty homes.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Actually, crime and jail populations both have steadily declined nationally and in Texas since the economy went in the tank. But please, don't let reality get in the way of your misconceptions.

Anonymous said...

Jesus H. You people complain about jail and prison overcrowding, now some enterprising folks build a jail, and you are all in their face over it. If their jail is empty, it's probably because they are not competitive with the private sector on their prices.

I believe that a little county jail in Houston is massively overcrowded, and sends their inmates to La, because Harris County is cheap, and La was lowest bid.

Maybe we need some business majors as interns to straighten this mess out, instead of elected officials.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

5:12, on this blog I don't rail against "overcrowding" so much as "overincarceration." The problem isn't too little jail space but too many low-risk, pretrial defendants in the jail.

Besides, if those "enterprising folks" built jails on the taxpayers' dime that their own counties don't need, and those beds cost too much to be competitive, how isn't that an enormous boondoggle?

DEWEY said...

Empty jail beds? Time to pass more laws making more things illegal !! How about passing a law making it illegal to be sarcastic on a blog ??

Zeety said...

Me and my gang are kind of bored what with the doldrums of the Holiday season and all.

Maybe would could get around to spreading some mayhem for those poor Texan's with an empty jail.

Both crooks and righteous folk hate to see anything go to waste...yada yada yada.

Anonymous said...

TV report missed the point (new fresh out of college reporter). New jail has capacity of 624 and current population of 600. Old jail being renovated to add over 500 cells back into inventory. Renovation not being done for speculation, but to take care of growth needs. This county is planning for its future needs. If it can rent some beds so much the better, but the purpose is for local needs.