|Tyler County Booster - Local News
Stories Added - January 2009
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company
D.A. expresses official’s frustration at recommended jail expansion
Tyler County Booster - January 2009
Editors Note: This is the second part of last week’s story looking at MGT’s study and recommendation on a new jail for the county.
First, the bottom line. Tyler County will build a new jail. Everyone, including the Texas Jail Commission, Tyler County Commissioners, Sheriff, and District Attorney understand that the only way to remain certified by the Jail Commission is to make more prisoner beds available and update the infrastructure to comply to new standards. It is clear the county has no choice but to spend the money to build the facility. County officials, however, appear to be victims of their own success when first the Jail Commission and then the consulting firm they hired to study and project jail population into the future reached essentially the same conclusion. By successfully and creatively managing the process of juggling all the folks that have really needed to be in jail, officials have skewed the hard data toward limited need. After hearing MGT’s presentation recommending 80 beds for a new facility, Tyler County District Attorney Joe Smith expressed the frustration of most of county officials involved in the issue. “I’m personally very disappointed in the number of beds projected,” Smith told the court. “And I understand some of that was caused by the lack of data. But I know this for a fact that we are not able to have the use of any lockup facilities in regard to any of our motions to revoke on probations. “We have many, many of them, and don’t have the option of motions to revoke of our misdemeanor cases. “We put them on probation and they wave at us, thumb their nose at us (because they know we don’t have the room to put them in jail).” He also pointed out that because of a lack of beds in the jail, his office is not able to do the mandatory jail time that is required. “Right now we’ve got 10 sitting over in Newton that cost us $300, $400 a day to keep over there,” he said. “We’ve got transportation cost back and forth...an additional 37 beds, in my opinion, it’s not worth the money to even get started because it’s not going to do a thing for us to solve our problems. “If they put 37 beds here today, it’s not going to solve the problem. We’re going to need a minimum of 90 something beds in addition to what we have now.” Smith told the court that right now there was no effective deterrent to misdemeanor crime because those committing these crimes understand that the county doesn’t have the jail cells to lock them up, and that probation isn’t effective because those on probation know they can violate it impunity without fear of consequences. “I could go on, I could spend all afternoon...explaining why we need more beds,” Smith said. “But this is simply not going to get it done. I’m concerned that with this low figure of an additional 37 beds that we are going to mislead the public and leave them thinking that this is going to carry us through for the next 10 years and it is not going to do it.” Officials fear that building even a 96 bed facility will have them revisiting the same problems in a few years.