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Inmate outsourcing cost continues to grow

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Hays County has broken its record high for inmate outsourcing this year.

“Here’s the part that hurts,” said County Judge Ruben Becerra as he read the cost of outsourcing inmates for the week of July 21-27.

Hays County spent $86,149, the highest cost to date, to outsource inmates to nine different counties across Texas. In 2019, the County has spent a total of $1,510,010 on outsourcing since it began reading reports from the Hays County Sheriff’s Office in the last week of January. This number does not include the three weeks that the commissioners court did not meet or did not read outsourcing information.

The County’s daily average was 580, with a peak of 57 on July 25. The average number of outsourced males was 201, with an average of 29 outsourced females. Inmates were outsourced to the following counties: Bastrop, Bell, Blanco, Burnett, Caldwell, Fort Bend, Guadalupe, Mc-Lennan and Walker.

Commissioners began a discussion on outsourcing after Becerra read the weekly report from the Hays County Sheriff’s Office. Precinct 4 Commissioner Walt Smith brought up the idea of adding the cost to hold inmates in the County to the weekly report.

“It would be very helpful to know — if we’re spending, if we’re spending $14,000 a day on outsourcing — if we had those inmates in house in Hays County how much would that be costing,” Smith said.

Commissioner Lon Shell said it would cost more to keep inmates housed in Hays County, and the real issue is an efficient justice system.

“I think that’s what we’re all trying to work to do,” Shell said. “To find efficiency, so it’s not about outsourcing versus here, it’s how can we reduce that overall population and reduce the growth of that population over time through efficiencies within our system.”

Becerra said the hope and goal of reading inmate outsourcing reports each week is to create more conversation.

“What can we do better, what can we do different, what can we do more,” Becerra said. “Because just because we’ve been doing it the same way for a decade or however long you want to go back, doesn’t mean we should continue. I’ve had a tour last week of our (new) jail and it is a mammoth. They’re on track, they’re on schedule. It is a big beast, and it is also a big beast on our budget.”

Becerra said he believes it would be more efficient to keep inmates in Hays County because it is harder for attorneys to drive to a different county to see their clients.

“In that efficiency net cost perspective, which is my favorite looking glass, we will save money if we have them here. We can go see them quicker, and we can get them out of there quicker,” Becerra said.

Smith said justice is not cheap, and clarified that he wants everyone to have a full view of the issue.

“And I believe there is an important factor there, but I also have concern that every week when we come in and say ‘we’re spending this much on outsourcing’ there is a perception that if, there is a fiscal perception that we could do a better job as far as financially if we had those inmates here,” Smith said.

Shell said the commission has done a great job of presenting ideas to create a more efficient criminal justice system.

“I think we’ve got some things to bring forward in the next few weeks that will continue to build upon this,” Shell said. “With the overall goal is doing everything we possibly can to create a more efficient system, which will, therefore, be better justice.”

San Marcos Record

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