Texas Panhandle Jails Are Reaching Max Capacity, What The Heck Do We Do Next?
Look, it's no secret that arrests happen every day. Some of them for minor things, some for major crimes, but we know they happen.
I never gave it much thought before, It wasn't until I started finding the mugshot pages on Facebook that I started to realize the incredible amount of people who are arrested on a daily basis.
As the population grows, the arrest numbers go up. That's just natural. One little problem with that though. The jails are running out of space to house inmates, and it's not just happening here.
Right now, Potter County Detention Center is sitting on the verge of max capacity, and they aren't the only ones in the Texas Panhandle running into this issue. Lubbock County Detention Center is sitting AT max capacity and has legitimate overflow concerns.
DOES THIS MEAN THE JAILS ARE COMPLETELY FULL?
When we talk about being at capacity, we immediately think there is ZERO room in the jails. Well, that's not entirely true. Texas law states that 10% of the beds must be unoccupied in every detention center. One of the reasons for this is they aren't allowed to mix males and females.
In Potter County's case, that means 59-60 of the beds they have available to them have to remain empty. As of late April, Potter County had 526 inmates. That leaves just 13-14 beds available before they reach max capacity.
Lubbock County has a total capacity of 1,512 inmates at a time. In the post I linked earlier, they were sitting at 1,514 inmates, and that doesn't sound good.
WHAT DO THEY DO WHEN THEY ARE AT CAPACITY?
In the case of Lubbock County, they end up shipping off inmates to different detention centers around the state. Sheriff Kelly Rowe with the Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office said in an interview with EverythingLubbock that things get a bit tricky when that happens.
“That’s not a fun time when you’ve got that many inmates housed in other areas, and you’re trying to keep up with the courts, keep up with what your attorneys need to keep up with, getting them brought back and forth, transportation is constantly running back and forth,”
When these inmates have to go to other facilities it can actually add more problems to the mix. For example, outside counties will charge up to $75 per day for housing inmates that don't belong to them.
So what can be done?
HOW ARE THEY COMBATTING THE PROBLEM?
Since it's not so easy to simply tell people to not commit crimes, they've had to resort to other methods of keeping the number of inmates down. Chief Deputy Scott Giles said in an interview with KAMR 4:
“We certainly want those who really need to be in jail to stay in jail. But there are times when we can simply move cases through the system a little bit quicker to free up bed space”
Long story short, they're trying to push some of these cases through the system as fast as possible, and looking for alternative ways for eligible offenders to serve their time more efficiently. We could start seeing more house arrest types of sentences for lower-level/non-violent convictions.
While detention centers continue to fill up with inmates, some of them are putting together expansion plans. Even if these plans end up being approved at some point, they won't be able to realize the fruits of it for several years. They'll still need to construct the expansions, therefore it's not an immediate fix to the problem.