Hays County will now outsource inmates to Fort Bend County, a roughly 146-mile trek as the Hays County Jail continues to operate at capacity.
The move comes after the county has been forced to outsource inmates due to its overpopulation woes in the jail, costing the county and taxpayer tens of thousands a week, and millions a year.
This week alone, the county spent $76,252 outsourcing inmates to nearby counties.
“The more we discuss this, the less gets done and the more gets spent,” said concerned resident Dan Lyon. “Is there any plan to stop this at all? We’re going bankrupt. We’re being bled dry without taxes for doing this, which doesn’t help the prisoner, or help us.”
Corrections Bureau Captain Julie Villapando said the inmate populations tend to increase during the summer months.
“Unfortunately, because of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, I’m not allowed to keep an overcrowded jail,” Villapando said. “I have to find other counties that have bed space to move my inmates to.”
The ongoing overcrowding of the jail, in conjunction with issues regarding indigent defense, has led to the formation of a criminal justice task force to make recommendations to the court.
Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra has prioritized criminal justice reform for the county in an effort to streamline a process that is currently slow moving.
Becerra said he is not a fan of outsourcing inmates but understands the county’s hands are tied.
Lyon said he believes a large portion of the inmates in the jail is non-violent offenders.
Part of this plan could potentially give aid to non-violent offenders instead of funneling them through the criminal justice system.
“I consider (outsourcing), and very optimistically when I say it, a bandaid,” Becerra said.
The county judge remains optimistic that the task force can make recommendations to help the county.
But for now, the county must continue outsourcing until the jail renovation project is complete, and recommendations from the task force can address the issues in the criminal justice system.
Outsourcing inmates to Fort Bend County will cost Hays County $55 per day per inmate, not including the transportation costs for the roughly two and a half hour journey.
“We don’t like outsourcing, but we don’t have any choice,” said Hays County Commissioner for Precinct 2 Mark Jones.
On May 10, in a controversial decision, the county rejected submitting a grant application to fund a public defenders office to aid in indigent defense.
Several commissioners are worried about a lack of information on the application, as well as a lack of support behind it from the county’s judiciary.
Supporters of the grant application cite that the grant could have addressed some issues relating to indigent defense in the jail.