Thursday, June 02, 2011

Bexar jail improvements focus on services, diversion instead of warehousing

Instead of constructing more jail beds to warehouse prisoners, Bexar County is forging a path that I hope other jurisdictions will follow, investing in programming to safely divert and/or rehabilitate offenders. Reports KSAT-TV:
A major improvement project is now under way that will expand Bexar County jail services.

A groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday ushered in phase 1 of the $57 million improvement project at the Adult Detention Center.County officials said two former Toudouze warehouses will be renovated for office space. The offices will initially house pre-trial services, re-entry services, and video visitation with inmates and their families.

Additional services will be added to the office space gradually over time."All of the services we will be providing here is an effort to try to help people and to get them to be good citizens, rather than just locking them up and making them a worse person," says Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff.
Bexar has also been a leader in diversion programs for the mentally ill. At least one Texas county seems willing to think outside the box ... er, the cell ... when it comes to reining in incarceration costs.


Prison Doc said...

Right now you can give them an E for effort, but praise should be held until it is shown that their efforts are successful. Thus far Bexar County Jail hasn't been much of a role model in any sphere.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Probably so, PD. In my experience almost all the big jails have a few things they do well and a bunch of things they do badly, and those things flip flop from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. E.g., Bexar has a good front-end MH diversion program but has more misdemeanor defendants in jail at any one time than Dallas or Houston.

Anyway, at a time when most administrators of full jails only want to spend money on more beds, I'm glad to see Bexar making investments in pretrial and reentry services. But then, being in Texas, perhaps my expectation levels have dipped too low.

A Texas PO said...

At least they are expanding the jail to provide services, not to increase bed space. I say throw praise on them now to keep them from following the paths of those other jails.