HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Hays County is trying a new plan to deal with its overcrowded jail. That plan includes allowing judges to release inmates before trial and giving them an ankle monitor to wear to keep tabs on them.
The new plan was approved Tuesday, Hays County Commissioner Lon Shell said. He described the jail as overcrowded and understaffed.
“We outsource inmates across the state of Texas … as far north as Red River County and south as Maverick County,” Shell said.
It’s an issue the commissioner said they hope to address with ankle monitors.
Currently, in Hays County, ankle monitors are used when someone is on probation. However, Shell said starting Tuesday, they are expanding, so they can be used before someone goes to trial.
“The idea was to provide that discretion to the judges. In the event that they find someone that they believe could be out pre-trial, supervised properly, instead of being held in our custody,” Shell said.
San Marcos Criminal Attorney Shannon Fitzpatrick saw the plan in a different light.
“Incarceration isn’t just behind bars. It can also be on that ankle monitor,” Fitzpatrick said.
She said this could be an immediate solution to jail overcrowding, but this shouldn’t be the only action to address this issue.
“If we could continue to work toward those mechanisms where we do that cite and divert, get people into the proper care and assistance that they need … that would be the best,” Fitzpatrick said.
Shell said the ankle monitors would be funded through dollars from the county’s American Rescue Plan. But he said there could be instances where the judge orders the defendant to pay the cost.
Hays County started working on a solution to its jail problem years ago.
Voters approved a $60 million bond to build a new one back in 2016. The sheriff’s office told KXAN it did a walk-through on Tuesday and could get an exact opening date soon.