Prison Overcrowding Will Be Felt Locally - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

01/19/05-Nacogdoches

Prison Overcrowding Will Be Felt Locally

by Donna McCollum

Emergency funding to house our state's law-breakers is what the Legislative Budget Board says is needed to solve prison overcrowding. Even if the cash was appropriated today it would take up to three years to get any new space.

In the meantime the burden lies at the county level. Thanks to a group effort by judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys many criminal cases in Nacogdoches County have been cleared. This provides needed jail space, but for how long?

As Sheriff Thomas Kerss repeatedly predicted it's now the prison system that's full. "As our population increases and as the state's growth in the prison system comes more and more overcrowded than our inmate population will increase. It will make it harder for us to find beds in other counties as well."

That's because the corrections system may have to lease space in county jails by March. It's doubtful that any East Texas county jails could profit from prison overcrowding. County jails that offer 100 beds or more will likely be looked at first.

Possible reimbursements may help ease taxpayers' burden of housing state prisoners, but there's no guarantee the money will be coming. Kerss knows something has to be done soon. "Whether that is to allocate more funds for beds to build more prison units or to cut the sentencing requirements," said Kerss.

The newly appointed board of director for the Sheriff's Association expects the solution to be a combination of both.

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