HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — In a 4-1 vote Tuesday, the majority of the Hays County Commissioners Court approved a tri-party agreement to house additional inmates needing shelter within the county’s jail system. The vote comes as county commissioners work to address correctional officer staffing issues impacting communities statewide.
Per the agreement, Hays County has entered a public-private, interlocal partnership with Haskell County and LaSalle Corrections West, LLC. to help care for inmates. On Oct. 1 — when fiscal year 2022-23 begins — Hays County is guaranteed 100 beds for inmates.
The cost to house, feed, transport and provide medical care for the 100 inmates amounts to $95 per inmate, per day, or $9,500 daily. Under this program, inmates will receive two roundtrip transports from the facility back to Hays County each week, officials said.
County staff said other contracts Hays County has with surrounding communities vary between $60 to $100 per inmate per day, but do not include transport services.
Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra, who was the lone dissent against the measure, said he wanted to avoid spending nearly $10,000 a day housing county inmates elsewhere when the county’s new jail facility is nearly complete. Despite its near completion, Hays County Chief Deputy Mike Davenport said staffing issues are barring this new facility from use.
Davenport said the county would need to hire between 10 and 12 corrections officers to reach the staffing capacity needed to house the 100 additional inmates. Counties throughout the state are currently struggling with competitive sign-on bonuses and means of enticing corrections officers, leading to gaps in staffing, he added.
In 2017, Davenport said the county jail system was roughly 95% fully staffed with around 400 inmates. As of January 2022, that figure had risen to more than 600 inmates, while staffing levels had dropped down to 61%.
“The sooner that we can quit [outsourcing inmates], the better,” he said.
With the competitive market now for overflow inmate housing, Becerra said he was concerned about entering into a partially private partnership. County staff said that, while the facility will be operated by LaSalle Corrections, it will be overseen, ran and supervised by Haskell County.
Contractually, there are several termination clauses in place for Hays County:
- Budget-out clause: if the county doesn’t have sufficient revenues any year and commissioners cannot fund the agreement, can move to get out of the contract
- If there’s a default on the LaSalle-Haskell County side of the agreement that cannot be remedied in 30 days, Hays County can exit the agreement
- After the first three fiscal years, renewal periods are optional for Hays County
If LaSalle and Haskell County opt to end its agreement with Hays County, they have a mandatory 30-day notice along with an additional 30-day period where LaSalle would help transition inmates back to Hays County. LaSalle and Haskell County would both have to agree to a contract termination, and could terminate over issues like limited facility space or staffing issues, county officials added.
Commissioner Mark Jones said that, while an outsourced option isn’t most ideal for inmates or their families, it’s a cost-effective option now for the county to consider.