Monday, April 25, 2016

Nueces jail overcrowding caused by pretrial detention

In Nueces County, the Sheriff is raising the alarm about jail overcrowding problems. But the reasons being suggested for high inmate numbers don't really explain things. "Some reasons for the spike include a reduced number of referrals to medical facilities, increases in arrests for criminal trespass in the new RTA building across from city hall and cases waiting to be presented to a grand jury, said court administrator Marilee Roberts," according to a report in the Corpus Christi Caller Times (April 19).

A quick look at the latest Texas Commission on Jail Standards inmate population report from Nueces County shows that assessment was a misdiagnosis. Like most other crowded jails in the state, the real trouble in Nueces is excessive pretrial detention. A whopping 60.6 percent of Nueces jail inmates were incarcerated awaiting trial as of April 1st. Further, a full 22.5 percent of inmates are misdemeanor defendants incarcerated pretrial, compared to only 9.5 percent statewide.

By contrast, in April 2006 only 21.7 percent of Nueces jail inmates were incarcerated awaiting trial, and only 3.2 percent of Nueces County inmates were pretrial misdemeanor defendants. Nueces would have no jail overcrowding problem if they'd kept pretrial detention at those levels.

At this point, Nueces County has 4 percent of the state's incarcerated pretrial misdemeanants but only 1.3 percent of the state's population.

Jail overcrowding in Nueces County amounts to a self-inflicted wound. While some local officials want to use the situation to promote new jail construction, really what's needed is greater accountability for judges and prosecutors who're allowing the jail to be misused in this fashion.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for covering this story. No one else seems to question the "population growth" equals "more jail beds" assumption, and no one else seems to care about how things actually happen. Data is a big deal and exposes what and who is responsible.

Jordan said...

Thanks for bringing up this serious issue. Hopefully stories like this will bring this problem to the attention of people who could work on solutions for jail overcrowding.

Anonymous said...

Nueces County has a tendency to arrest homeless mentally ill persons and charge them with misdemeanor offenses to get them off the streets around downtown and city call. Also, since many of the mentally ill clients are declared not competent to stand trial (despite having enough awareness that he or she wouldn't hospitalized under other circumstances) for the misdemeanor offense the client is declared mentally incompetent and sent to a state hospital to restore them to competency thus keeping them off the streets for an even longer period. Problem with this is that many of the needed acute/long term care beds at the State Hospital are then taken up by competency restoration.