LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Two hundred and seventy-nine is a number that concerns jail staff at the Angelina County Detention Center.
"When we hit that 279 number on inmates we have to shut the jail down when it comes to accepting inmates," Sheriff Greg Sanches said. " It is real concerning to us."
The jail that was built in 2003 is creeping up on that cutoff number. As of Friday afternoon the jail had 261 inmates. The jail can house 225 men and 54 women. Sanches and jail staff have been monitoring the jail population for the last several months.
We only have so many inmates that you can hold," Assistant Warden Thomas Strickland said. "Our maximum is 279. Once we get to 279 we are going to have to look at different options."
Strickland said the majority of the inmates are pre-trial felons that have been charged and are waiting for court dates.
"Those charges take a while," Strickland said. "They got to court. Some of your pre-trial felons, their bonds are high so if they can't post bond they are sitting here waiting until they can answer for their charges."
Strickland added there are several more reasons for a high population including inmates waiting to be transferred to state facilities that have been declared "incompetent", parole and probation violators, blue warrants, inmates being held on out of county warrants and bench warranted inmates coming back for court hearings from state facilities.
Sanches also pointed out that once inmates are sentenced to TDCJ, it could take 45 days for custody to change hands.
Strickland said the county is always looking for ways to speed up the process of getting someone booked out and are continuing to do 'rocket docket' where the county speeds up smaller cases through the court system.
What people do not understand is that the jail is a big business," Sanches said. "There is a lot that we have to obey as far as laws and rules."
The lack of free space has jail administrators considering paying other jails to house the inmates. Right now Houston, Polk and Smith County jails are all being considered. It could cost county taxpayers around $45 dollars per inmate per day. Houston County Chief Deputy G.P. Shearer said the cost is actually higher once transportation and other miscellaneous items are added in.
"We don't want to run into when it is time so we are trying to stay on top and keep our options open for what we can do," Strickland said.
Sheriff Greg Sanches said his long term plan for fixing the problem would be to build a new wing with up to 150 new beds. Sanches admits that plan is not a sure thing because it would involve long range planning with different groups just to design the addition.
"In a couple of years down the road we are going to be probably in a bind," Sanches said.
Any plan would need to be approved by the county commissioner court.
"Right now we are sitting down and looking through some bids," Sanches said. "We have not finalized a plan but are close and will present it when we are ready."