Lower Jail Population Helpful For Several Reasons - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

08/09/04 - Nacogdoches

Lower Jail Population Helpful For Several Reasons

by Donna McCollum

Just several months ago Nacogdoches County tax dollars were used to house inmates in other counties. All the cells in the Nacogdoches County Jail were full. Thanks to the efforts of a lot of people, the county is now saving and making money in this area.

When the Nacogdoches County jail population began to grow and when it took more tax dollars than usual to house inmates an answer to the problem had to be found. The solution begins in the court system.

District Attorney Stephanie Stephens said, "We're trying to assure that nobody sits in jail longer than 30 days without their case going before a Grand Jury." That's a third of the time that the state allows by law. The staff, the courts and judges are working to get pleas heard faster and trials set sooner.

Stephens makes one point clear. "We're not cutting people loose to make more space in the jails." Rather it's additional court hearings that bring results noticed by Sheriff Thomas Kerss.

"We're not having to pay others to house our inmates which is significant and in addition to that we can hopefully return some revenue dollars to the county by being able to host these contracts as well," said the Sheriff shortly after Nacogdoches County Commissioners renewed the Intermediate Sanction Facility Services contract (I-S-F).

Under the contract the county holds and provides training for inmates on probation from a ten county region. That contract has brought in as much as $750,000 for the county.

Of course there's no guarantee on how long jail space will be available. "There's a realistic probability that the state is going to become overcrowded in prison space. When that happens in all likelihood county jails will be probably again become overcrowded," said Kerss.

Such fluctuations in jail populations make projections difficult. County governments, just like many households must amend budgets as unexpected expenses come along.

The rise in fuel and oil is costing the county more money, and no one predicted that the increase would happen so fast. The higher energy costs are also being noticed in the kitchen, causing food prices for the jail to increase. Those extra costs in fuel and energy ultimately end up costing you, the taxpayer, more money.

With so many rising costs, grant money is utilized to its fullest by law enforcement. Uniforms, life saving equipment and ammunition for training will be purchased with a Law Enforcement Block Grant. Just over $6,400 will be shared by the Nacogdoches County Sheriff's Department and the Nacogdoches Police Department. The money will be helpful, but the amount is steadily going down.

All these factors come into play when setting a county budget. Commissioners want to take full advantage of all additional revenue as they finalize next year's budget.

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