Houston Co. making money on other counties' prisoners

CROCKETT, TX (KTRE) - Housing inmates is becoming big business for Houston County.

The newly opened jail is welcoming inmates from all over, essentially saying "make yourself at home."

"I'll just start right here," said jailer Richard Smith. "These are what we call special cells. We use this primarily if an inmate's acting out."

Smith, is proud of his new facility.

"Down here I'll show you the violent cell," Smith said.

The cutting-edge county jail is now open for business.

"Any new facility around that's larger than their immediate necessary certainly looking to fill that space and off-set some of the cost," Sheriff Darrel Bobbitt said.

"The only thing we do with out-of-county inmates is book them in, take a mug shot and they're placed in the back," Smith said.

Each one translates into dollar signs for Houston County.

"You're trying to locate counties close enough that it would be advantageous to them and you to house their prisoners and hopefully bring some of their tax dollars into your county," Bobbitt said.

They have a way to stay competitive in this business.

"By not telling who I've got contracts out with right now," Bobbitt said.

Ten prisoners from Trinity and Walker County are already housed here.

"It's a tremendous savings for us," Trinity County Sheriff Ralph Montemayor said.

Neighboring Trinity County's jail was built in 1938.

Montemayor says state jail standards force him to transfer all but one of his inmates.

"We're sitting at 30 prisoners so you can do the math of saving $4 per prisoner per day," Montemayor said.

"We think we're the perfect fit for Trinity County," Bobbitt said. "They can drive over the county line 15 minutes. They can be here to interview their inmates."

Houston County Commissioners just approved a measure allowing the sheriff to temporarily enter into a contract with other counties.

This is without prior approval.

Commissioners will review and approve it at their next meeting.

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