Continued issues with overcapacity at the Hays County Jail is leading officials to work with a neighboring county to solve the problem.
On Sept. 25, Hays County Commissioners passed an interlocal cooperation agreement between Hays County and Caldwell County for housing inmates in the neighboring jail. The Hays County Jail is above capacity and nearly half of its inmates are currently being outsourced to other jails across the state.
County officials say the agreement is the most fiscally responsible solution, as the Caldwell County Jail is the closest correctional facility to Hays County. Hays County currently outsources 292 inmates to jails in Bell, Blanco, Burnet, Guadalupe and McClennan counties.
“If we didn’t have to do it, we wouldn’t do it,” said Pct. 3 Commissioner Lon Shell. “We have a jail project to try and meet some of those needs. Transportation is expensive and Caldwell County is the closest jail to our existing facility.”
Shell also referenced the county’s $78 million bond to renovate its county jail, which will expand the facility by 121,600 square feet, including 192 added inmate beds. However, the Hays Free Press reported recent construction complications at the site of the jail renovation.
According to county officials, there are currently 603 inmates in Hays County. The maximum capacity of the jail is 362 inmates.
Debbie Ingalsbe, Hays County Pct. 1 Commissioner, said transferring prisoners to Caldwell County would cut transportation costs, due to its proximity to Hays’ jail.
The county will continue to speak with the District Attorney’s office to discuss methods to expedite case hearings and cut down on the number of prisoners in jail waiting for trial, she said.
But some residents at the meeting weren’t convinced of the county’s efforts to alleviate its prison overpopulation.
“How come the District Attorney isn’t processing these folks in jail to bring these numbers down,” asked Rodrigo Amaya, Hays County resident. “There’s a lot of money being spent on sending these prisoners out.”
According to county officials, the cost of outsourcing prisoners to other jails has cost the taxpayers over $6 million since the 2017 fiscal year.
Hays County has spent $3,858,029 to outsource prisoners from Jan. 1 to Aug. 31.
Dan Lyon, a Hays County resident, said the county is spending too much money “farming” prisoners to other jails, which to him, is an abuse to the citizens of Hays County.
“We have people losing their houses because they cannot afford to pay their taxes, yet we’re going to sign another agreement with another county,” Lyon said. “Something’s got to be done. This has to stop. We can’t make a business out of this, which is what it seems to be.”
Hays County Sheriff Gary Cutler said the population of the jail has doubled since 2010; at that time, Hays County’s jail had 260 inmates.
Cutler that he is working with the county’s General Counsel to work out a solution to get inmates through the court process.