According to archived agendas from the county clerk’s oce, commission- ers approved $9 million to outsource 600 inmates to Louisiana on Dec. 18, 2007, to lower the county jail popu- lation, but TCJS data shows the jail capacity was above 90% for most of 2008-09. In addition, Precinct 2 Commis- sioner Adrian Garcia said at a January 2022 Commissioners Court meeting that when he became sheri in 2009, his oce created programs to allow inmates to build credit toward earlier releases and to keep people with men- tal health conditions out of jail. However, he said he could do so because most people in the jail had been charged with low-risk oenses. As of Jan. 23, about 61% of the jail’s population had been charged with vio- lent or serious crimes. In terms of recent outsourcing eorts, commissioners approved close to $35 million in 2022 to send inmates to two private facilities in Louisiana and Post, Texas. However, at the July 19 meeting to approve the $25.75 mil- lion expenditure for Post, County Judge Lina Hidalgo described it as a “stopgap measure” needed to alleviate the impacts of the court case backlog.
As of October, commissioners had also approved nearly $40 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding since 2021 to tackle the court case backlog, according to the Oce of County Administration. From the oce’s Oct. 25 report to Commission- ers Court, the backlog of felony cases was down 23% since Jan. 1, 2022. County Administrator David Berry said at the July 19 meeting that using temporary federal funds and spend- ing tens of millions of dollars a year to address the problem was “not nan- cially sustainable.” On Sept. 1, 2021, with support from Commissioners Court, the Texas Leg- islature created the 482nd District Court, the rst new criminal district court in the county since 1984. Even so, Megan LaVoie, the admin- istrative director for the Texas Oce of Court Administration, said that based on case lings alone, the county would need 41 more district courts during her Dec. 9 testimony before the Texas Sen- ate Committee on Criminal Justice. “It costs between [$500,000] and a million dollars to create a new district court, so there is a signicant cost at the local level,” she said. The Texas Legislature convened Jan.
Among the ve largest county jail populations in Texas, Harris County had the largest jail population in April but only the fourth- highest population per 100,000 people.
APRIL 1, 2022, JAIL POPULATION COMPARISON
SOURCE: AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNIONCOMMUNITY IMPACT
10, but Wood said as of Jan. 6 that TCJS had not identied any bills that would help address jail populations. “There’s always the potential for leg- islation that deals with criminal justice to have an impact on our jail popula- tions,” Wood said. “It can range from increase[s] in penalt[ies], looking at the dollar amounts associated with the
type of charges that can be led [or] whether there’s any movement on the mental health side. All those things can denitely have an impact on the jail population. It’s still very early.”
For more information, visit communityimpact.com .
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