Travis County jails to start housing Hays County inmates

Hays

TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — In an effort to deal with chronic overcrowding, Hays County Jail will send some inmates to Travis County under a new $2,000-a-day inter-local agreement.

Hays County Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the agreement for the next five years.

Travis County will house no more than 50 inmates each day for Hays County, provided there is room. Currently, the jail in Hays County can hold a legal maximum of 311 and must have 10% available.

Hays County judge Ruben Becerra says Hays County needs the help because “our incarceration rate is faster than our population growth rate even though our crime is down.”

There are already agreements in place that allow Hays to transport inmates to Caldwell, Blanco, Gudalupe, Bell, Bastrop, Fort Bend and McLendon Counties.

“This is a temporary holding pattern because we are working on criminal justice reform on all fronts,” Becerra said.

Details of the Travis County agreement

This is the first time Travis County has gone into an agreement to take in an overflow of inmates, with the only exception being during Hurricane Harvey.  Travis County’s jail can hold 3,167 and currently houses 2,200 people. There are no concerns about Travis running out of room, a Travis County spokesperson says.

Hays County will still be responsible for transporting the inmates to and from the Travis County jail, although for $35 per hour per guard, Travis County will provide security during those transports. Hays County will also have to keep track of and notify Travis County if any inmates need to be discharged.

The inmates Travis County takes must be at least 18 years old, healthy both physically and mentally, and may not have a “serious institutional behavior history,” according to the agreement.

The agreement is set to be in place through Sept. 30, 2020, and automatically renew each year until then, provided Hays County allocates funding to keep it going.

Meanwhile, Hays County is working on a new jail which will be completed by December 2019, but will not be in service until early 2020, a spokesperson said. The new jail in Hays County was under some scrutiny for coming in at $7 million over budget. 

“The construction company initially gave us a Guaranteed Maximum Price that was  $7.1 million over what the bond said it would be and the Court refused it and asked the company to revise and come back. The company said it was due to unexpected labor and material costs following Harvey. The construction company came back with a revised Guaranteed Maximum Price that was within the amount in the bond election and was accepted by the Court. The Court was determined not to go over what they told the public it would cost,” says Laureen Chernow, spokesperson for Hays County. 

Numbers on the capacity of the new jail in Hays County were not available. 

Becerra says the endgame is to stop outsourcing inmates to other counties completely. 

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