Jail population almost 50 percent over capacity

Commissioners meeting with judges, other justice system officers to find answers

From Staff Reports

Sept. 10, 2008 - Local justice system authorities will meet with county commissioners this week to discuss the crowded conditions at the county jail.

The jail was built to accommodate just under 100 prisoners, but in the last 2 1/2 months has held double-digit numbers only three times.

One in June and once in July, the jail's daily census count was 97. On July 3 held 92 prisoners.

The rise in the number of inmates began climbing in mid-June, and as of Tuesday had reached 144, according to daily census reports provided by the sheriff's office.

The inmate count has been an even 100 on three occasions, but on almost every other day has been well above that figure, according to News-Telegram records compiled from daily reports provided by the Hopkins County Sheriff's Office.

On Aug. 9, the number reached what then seemed like a whopping 120 inmates, but that figure would soon seem low. The count hit 133 on Aug. 31, climbed to 135 on Sept. 2, and rose to 137 on Sept. 4 and 5.

On Tuesday, the jail census had jumped to 144, almost 47 percent over capacity.

Finding room to house that many inmates, as well as funding for supplies and bedding materials, has proven quite a challenge for jail staff, who are taxed to keep up with the increase in numbers.

On Thursday, the sheriff and his administrative secretary, the jail administrator, the county court-at-law and state district judges, both justices of the peace, and the county and district attorneys are slated to discuss the jail overcrowding with county commissioners.

The session, which is open to the public, is slated to begin at 4 p.m. in the commissioners courtroom at the Hopkins County Courthouse. Likely topics for discussion include the reasons for overcrowding and potential solutions or timetable to either reduce the overcrowding or presenting plans toward resolving the overpopulation.

In addition to finding a place to put the increased number of inmates at the county jail and costs associated with housing them, the issue of jail overcrowding could represent an even bigger problem. The county jail does not meet state jail standards by which the facility is evaluated and given accreditation to remain open.

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