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Hays County finalizes new inmate outsourcing agreement

After weeks of negotiations, Hays County leaders Sept. 3 gave their final green light to a contract allowing the outsourcing of prisoners to Travis County.

The move, accomplished by a 5-0 Hays County Commissioners vote, is expected to transfer 50 prisoners currently held at the Hays County Jail in San Marcos to the Travis County Jail in Austin. However, some Hays County elected leaders questioned Travis County Commissioners’ decision to alter the cost of the contract.

In early August, Hays County Commissioners approved an agreement for Travis County to house the prisoners at a rate of $40 per inmate, which equates to $2,000 per day.

While Travis County Commissioners approved the intake of Hays County prisoners, they recommended increasing the price to $70 per inmate and a maximum limit of $3,500 per day.

Hays County General Counsel Mark Kennedy said Travis County leaders were “dissatisfied” with Hays County’s initial $40 per inmate offer.

“That’s probably a loser for them,” Kennedy said. “Well, not probably, most certainly.”

Kennedy said the $70 per day is “in step” with other counties Hays County outsources prisoners to.

Hays County currently outsources inmates to Bastrop, Bell, Burnet, Caldwell, Fort Bend, Guadalupe, McLennan and Walker counties in order to alleviate overcrowding at the Hays County Jail. According to a News-Dispatch report, the county spent $83,921 to outsource prisoners from July 28 to Aug. 3.

However, Kennedy said the $70 per inmate rate is “cheaper” than housing those prisoners at the Hays County Jail at this time. In addition, Travis County Commissioners plan to review the contract in five months to “see how it’s going,” Kennedy said.

Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe said she was surprised when she saw the difference in cost. Ingalsbe said it was “quite a spread” from a $40 to $70 rate.

Kennedy said Travis County Commissioners had expressed interest in a much higher rate than what they agreed to. The News-Dispatch reported Travis County Commissioners discussed a possible rate of $110 per inmate before settling on $70.

“I just wish they would have gone for the lower rate,” said Pct. 3 Commissioner Lon Shell. “But it’s still better than some of our alternatives.”

However, Ingalsbe supported passage of the agreement as it brings inmates closer to Hays County.

Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra said that negotiating the contract will allow inmates to have quicker access to the judicial system.

Becerra said it was “interesting” how Travis County leaders questioned whether implementation of measures similar to its diversion programs could have kept inmates out of the Hays County Jail.

“I’m glad we’re working on these things and I’m glad we’re working toward that so we can reduce or eliminate outsourcing altogether,” Becerra said.

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