By Brittany Anderson
HAYS COUNTY — The Hays County Jail has faced significant problems for years, resulting in hundreds of inmates being outsourced or kept in the over-capacitated jail, costing taxpayers thousands of dollars.
In an effort to help expedite some of the processes needed to get people through the system in a fair but timely manner, Hays County Commissioners Court unanimously approved to establish a system of payment for a GPS ankle bracelet monitor, as a condition of inmates’ bonded release, during its July 5 meeting.
Pct. 3 Commissioner Lon Shell said that this is an issue that has been discussed for a while in the context of pretrial — people who are still waiting for their day in court and are legally innocent — services.
“This is something we’d like to get going in the event that a judge orders a GPS monitoring ankle bracelet; that we have funds budgeted that can be used for that,” Shell said.
Hays County general counsel Mark Kennedy said this program is meant to accommodate the release of inmates when it could not otherwise be achieved.
“This is the one thing extra that could be done to have someone released,” Kennedy said. “It should not be construed as a program where monitors are being used on people that would have been released anyway. A judge gets to decide this; there’s not a written standard, but this is a conversation that we’re having with the courts right now to try to calibrate that properly.”
Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe and Judge Ruben Becerra also noted that this will be another cost-saving measure for the county jail system, and another tool that will help judges relieve some of the inmate population.
The need for services like this was once again reiterated after Becerra read the weekly Hays County Jail inmate report, provided to the court by the sheriff’s office.
According to the report, the Hays County Jail’s daily average number of inmates was 693, reaching its peak on June 27 with 702 inmates. Current maximum jail capacity is 410 inmates, and based on jail standards that recommend holding 10% capacity open, Hays’ capacity should only be 368.
Currently, the median length of stay for pretrial inmates is 104 days. Additionally, the estimated taxpayer cost of outsourcing inmates during the week of the report was $120,580. Inmates were outsourced as far away as Red River County, nearly 400 miles from Hays County.
Commissioners have been working to solve this problem in other ways, as well, having voted on May 24 to award a request for proposal to Neighborhood Defender Services to create the county’s first public defender office — yet another piece of the puzzle to fixing the jail crisis in the county.