Hays County considers new prison as overcrowding issues persist

Hays County Jail (Dawn Denny/KXAN)

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — Hays County jail officials say their facility will exceed capacity as early as next year. Right now, there are 311 prisoners being held in the facility.

For years, the jail was sending inmates to other counties when their building was too full. In doing that, it cost the taxpayers in Hays County hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.  Between 2009 and 2010, the county spent nearly $1 million outsourcing prisoners to Guadalupe County at $50 a day per prisoner. In 2001, the number dropped drastically, and it hasn’t been done since.

crimes by offenseA pair of programs set up to help jail officials better control the inmate population helped relieve the swelling prison population.

The county’s cite and release program allows police chiefs in Kyle, Buda and San Marcos the option to issue citations for minor offenses such as possession of less than two ounces of marijuana, or theft of property that is less than $50. In 2013, police gave out 103 of those citations, rather than booking them into jail.

A second program allows some prisoners to reduce their sentences by cleaning the jail or participating in trash cleanups on county roads. In doing so, an inmate who spends 24 hours in the jail could earn up to three days of time served.

The jail initially only housed prisoners committing misdemeanor crimes, but with the increase in population, it’s now housing just as many felons. In 2010, the jail held about 80 felons, but this past February, the number of felons there rose to 158.

The jail also failed two inspections by the Texas Commission of Jail Standards in 2009.

A proposal to replace the 26-year-old jail could soon be on the table. County Commissioners say they will begin discussing the possibility of either building a new jail or expanding the existing one this summer, meaning it could be on the ballot again this November. If passed, the new jail would sit at the same location at 1307 Uhland Road in San Marcos.

For the full story by Brett Thorne with Community Impact Newspaper.

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