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Study on Costs of Liberty County Jail Inmates

Aug 16th, 2012 | Category: Liberty County

By Carol Skewes, Publisher, Wednesday, May 23, 2012 9:56 pm | The Vindicator

75th District Court Judge Mark Morefield, 253rd District Court Judge Chap Cain and County Court at Law Judge Tommy Chambers were all in the commissioners court meeting Tuesday morning, May 22, to hear Sarah Beth Bolin of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition make a presentation to the Commissioners regarding the Liberty County Jail.

Bolin has gathered information on three counties of similar size with jails run by private companies, and has found a doctoral student / professor willing to conduct an in-depth study on the Liberty County jail at cost.

The Liberty County jail, run by Community Education Centers (CEC) has seen its per diem rates rise 64% in the past year. Last summer the county paid $46.50 per inmate per day. Today the rate is $72.75 per day to house one inmate. The contract with CEC expired in December and CEC moved the county to a sliding scale based on the number of inmates per day.

If the county has 180-199 in jail, the cost is $64.25 per inmate, per day.

170-179 inmates: $66 per inmate, per day.

160-169 inmates: $70.90 per inmate, per day.

See Commissioners

… study jail, Page 9A

From Page 1A

150-159 inmates: 72.75 per inmate, per day, and for an inmate population of fewer than 150, the cost reverts to cost plus 15% (with no clear definition of cost).

At the same time as the rates have been climbing, the Liberty County CSCD (Criminal Supervision Department) has been working diligently to minimize the number of inmates held in county jail under the new PR Bond (personal recognizance) Program. Morefield added, “Due to the efforts of the judges, the District Attorney’s office and the employees of the PR Bond Program working together, over $1 million has been saved in one year.”

Morefield concluded, “Now the county is paying more per month than when the PR program started and there are fewer prisoners (143 as of Tuesday).

Bolin presented many facts on counties that are deprivatizing their jail operations. She referenced Hernando County, Fla., San Luis, Ariz., and Tulsa, Okla. which are in transition.

Bolin offered a list of many more counties of similar size to Liberty County with jail population, capacity, annual budget, cost per day and each sheriff’s name to the commissioners in Tuesday’s meeting.

The benefits of deprivatization are control over public safety and a having a vested interest in your county. Bolin mentioned monetary savings and ethics.

Bolin commented, “A transition will be challenging. You should make the best decision for the county.”

Lynn Greenwood, an instructor of Criminal Justice at Texas A&M Killeen, who is half-way through her doctoral studies at Texas State University, was introduced by Bolin as the lead person who would conduct an in-depth study of the Liberty County jail situation at cost ($5000 or less).

Greenwood said, “The study would take a hard look at what really goes into costs.” She added, “Mine is an academic position, which is neutral in nature.” Commissioners were in agreement the study would be a good idea, but no action can be taken until the next commissioners court meeting Tues., June 12.

County Attorney Wes Hinch stated, “I applaud the court for taking initiative. I have been asking for this for months.” He asked for the county attorney’s office to be included in the discussions in the future.

County Judge Craig McNair said, “I applaud the judges, DA’s office, County Attorney’s office and Sheriff for working together. What we need is a nuts-and-bolts comparision.”

Steve Swan was recommended by Judge Cain to be the point person for the study when the time comes. Commissioner Norman Brown (Pct. 4) added that Commissioner Charlotte Key Warner (Pct. 3) would also make a good point person to keep everyone informed.

In other business commissioners discussed the acquisition of property with grant funds for the Liberty County Shelter/Community Center. Jay Rice of Public Management said an earnest money contract has been presented to the county attorney in the amount of $2500 and he recommended going out for bids on buildings before closing on the property, to make sure the project is affordable.

Commissioner Warner (Pct. 3) made the motion and Commissioner Todd Fontenot (Pct. 1) seconded to enter an earnest money agreement on the shelter project.

Commissioners approved appointments to the H-GAC Gulf Coast Economic Development District and Regional Homeland Security Coordinating Council. Frank Jordan and Tom Branch were re-appointed respectively.

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