Angelina sheriff struggles with overcrowded jail

By Jeff Awtrey - email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Last year alone, nearly 6,000 people were booked in the Angelina County Jail. Today, the jail is just ten inmates shy of capacity.

"We get full," Sheriff Kent Henson said. "You have some months that peak."

When they fill up, something has to give. Sometimes it's an inmate's sentence.

"We have had to release some on different things that we don't like having to release them on, but sometimes we don't have any choice on that," Henson said.

Inmates released early are usually near the end of their sentence.

"Now, if it's an assaultive type offense, we won't let them out early," Henson said. "But, there's some of them that are out on traffic or something like that, you know, that are the least threat to society, then sometimes we may have to release them."

Henson says letting a few out early to create room leaves him uneasy.

"Yeah, you worry about it all the time," Henson said. "You worry about it, but you're under state and federal regulations that says hey you can't exceed this."

Features have been built into the jail like the laundry room and the kitchen and the control center to support future expansion.

But he doesn't think a bigger building would completely solve the problem.

"If you built 600 beds, we would be sitting there facing the same thing," Henson said. "I mean the crime rate is going to fit whatever you've got to put them in."

The problem is simple. A growing crime rate and a large number of re-offenders. The solution is seemingly impossible.

"If we could predict the crime before it happens, we could stop it before it happened," Henson said. "Of course there's no way to do that. If we could, we could eliminate a lot of this problem."

So, law enforcement continues to fight the crime, and bring in the bad guys.

"We will do everything we possibly can to hold them as long as we can to the full extent of their sentence," Henson said.

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