Tom Green County Jail Population Down Saving Taxpayers Money
SAN ANGELO, TX -- There are 380 inmates in the Tom Green County Jail today according to the Tom Green County Sheriff’s Office and that’s well below capacity.
Tom Green County Sheriff David Jones said Friday the drop in population is typical for the holiday season. “Arrests in December were down. We normally book about 600 people into the jail in a normal December. In 2018, we only booked 485.”
The current Tom Green County Jail has 449 beds. Jones says normally by April or May the inmate population will be back above capacity and the county has to house inmates in other county jails which costs taxpayers money.
There is no identifiable reason for the seasonal drop in population but Sheriff Jones says part of the reason for overcrowding throughout the year is some inmates have been in jail over a year waiting to go to trial because the court system is so backed up. Each defendant charged with a felony has to have at least two pretrial hearings before a District Judge. Defendants have a hearing to be assigned a court appointed attorney if they can’t afford one. They also have an initial pretrial hearing where they may or may not be arraigned. And defendants have a final pretrial hearing where they may take a plea deal in exchange for a guilty plea. Most defendants don’t go to a jury trial but the number of hearings clogs the court docket. It is not unusual for 50 plus inmates to be taken from the jail to the courthouse for pretrial hearings on pretrial day.
The trial docket for the four District Courts in Tom Green County is so backed up that Sheriff Jones says he has some inmates have been in jail for over 1,000 days waiting trial. Jones says they try to bond out as many inmates as possible to keep the population down.
When the population in the jail exceeds the 449 beds, the Sheriff’s Office has to transport inmates to other counties who have a contract with Tom Green County to house those inmates.
According to texaspolicy.com, housing inmates cost taxpayers about $50 per day on average. Sheriff Jones says the new Tom Green County Jail is expected to be completed by December of 2019 and will have 552 beds. The new jail is being constructed near the Roy K. Robb CRTC on U.S. 67/277 N. and when operational will house all Tom Green County inmates.