By Samantha Smith
Continued overcrowding at the Hays County Jail is forcing county officials to keep with the trend of outsourcing prisoners to another facility to stem the flow.
But the county is now accruing additional costs at taxpayers’ expense as they’re having to travel further to house the excess in prisoners. It’s now leading county officials to contemplate placing a $100 million new jail facility onto a possible November bond initiative.
In late July, Hays County Commissioners approved an Interlocal Agreement between Hays County and Burnet County. The ILS allows for the transport and housing of Hays County inmates at the Burnet County Jail.
Commissioners approved the agreement with Burnet County that stipulates a $35 a day charge for each inmate.
Hays County Sheriff’s Deputy Lt. Dennis Gutierrez said this daily charge can fluctuate between $35 to $50 a day, depending on the facility. Additional costs to the taxpayers include costs for transportation, food and medication for inmates.
“There are also additional costs for the actual transporting of the inmates such as labor, fuel and additional vehicle maintenance costs. All of these additional costs are paid for by the taxpayer,” Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez said the county would be forced to outsource inmates until “additional bed space is acquired.”
According to the Hays County Jail’s website, the current jail facility, constructed in 1989, is equipped with 362 beds and 111 certified male and female corrections officers.
But with a record 8,000 inmates per year and 2,600 transferred to various courts, Hays County no longer has the bed space to house all of its prisoners.
Gutierrez said inmates with minor charges are few and far between at the Hays County Jail. But even inmates charged with a minor crime still have to appear before a magistrate responsible for setting a bond amount applicable to the crime.
“If a person is unable to post the bond, then he/she must stay in jail,” Gutierrez said. “The Sheriff’s Office has no control over who can post bond and who can’t,” Gutierrez said.
Captain Mike Davenport, Hays County Jail Administrator, said at the July 26 commissioners court meeting that the Hays County Jail has been outsourcing inmates to Caldwell County to counter the overflow.
That facility, however, said they were unable to house any more prisoners, as they’ve taken as many as they can, Davenport said.
There are currently 100 inmates being held at the Guadalupe County Jail, but that is the maximum they can take due to a lack of staffing on its part to accommodate the extra Hays County inmates, Davenport said.
Davenport told commissioners in July the move to enter into the ILA with Burnet County was a “necessary move.”
Hays County is now looking toward potentially placing an expansion of the Hays County Jail onto a November bond initiative.
Gutierrez said the county’s Hays County Jail bond project committee has a deadline of Aug. 16 to include the jail bond project in the November bond ballot.