The Bexar County Adult Detention Facility is approaching its maximum inmate holding capacity. Accordingly, the Bexar County Commissioner’s Court Tuesday approved a motion that allows the County to send 70 more individuals to the Karnes County Correction Center for jailing.
Karnes County is located about 70 miles southeast of Bexar County. The Karnes County Correction Center already is holding 30 Bexar County inmates charged with misdemeanor crimes.
The motion passed by the Commissioner’s Court reserves 70 additional beds at the Karnes County facility through a contractual amendment with GEO Corrections. According to court documents provided to the Rivard Report, the total dollar amount to be spent on the additional bedding in Karnes County is not to exceed $247,280.
“We’ve basically seen an uptick in jail population in our detention center,” said Sheriff Javier Salazar’s Chief of Staff James Serrato. Addressing the court, Serrato explained the safety hazards associated with the recent increases in inmate holdings.
“As of yesterday we were at 4,407 with a maximum bed count of 4,563. However, 4,563 is a little misleading because it all depends on classification of prisoners. So 4,407 really puts us almost into that red line critical level, because that means we have no empty units.”
Only inmates charged with misdemeanor crimes may be sent to Karnes County for housing. This opens up beds and units in the Bexar County Adult Detention Facilities for more violent offenders and other individuals charged with more serious crimes.
“We will be seeing this type of growth, way above normal, with our inmate capacity through August, September, and October,” Serrato said. “The projections don’t show this dropping until November.”
The price breakdown for the additional bedding at the Karnes correctional facility is as follows: the first 30 beds are provided to Bexar County at no cost; beds 31 through 48 are priced at $41 each; and beds 49 through 100 at $45 each. If 52 beds are utilized at $45 for 92 days, it will cost the County $215,280 in unbudgeted expenses for 92 days of holding along with $32,000 for additional inmate expenses during that time.
“We have a huge budgetary issue that happens when we have to outsource and have the jail at capacity,” Commissioner Tommy Calvert (Pct. 4) said. Calvert pulled the item from the Court’s consent agenda to explore possible solutions to the problem.
“I wanted to highlight the importance of creative ideas for us to combat the [increase in] jail population,” Calvert told the Rivard Report before the Court’s executive session. Commissioners asked county court judges to voluntarily work overtime hours to push through more of the misdemeanor cases.
“From what I’ve heard from members of our judiciary [branch], they will be quite happy, many of them going up for re-election, to have said they actually saved taxpayers dollars in not having to outsource 70 beds to a neighboring county,” Calvert said.
While Calvert believes expediting misdemeanor cases through the judicial process will aid in lowering the jail population, providing more job placement or educational opportunities will have a longer lasting impact.
“We need to look at programs to actually go door to door in neighborhoods and actually make sure that we get people into skilled trades or other education,” Calvert said. “We really have to look at some of the drug epidemics and the cognitive behavioral therapy that’s necessary.”
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff voiced similar concerns regarding the role drugs play in the increase in incarcerations.
“There’s more dangerous drugs on the streets today than we’ve ever seen before,” Wolff said. “There’s something like 100 different chemicals that can be used to spike marijuana today. There are drugs like K2 [synthetic marijuana] that are just driving people crazy, making them violent. We’re seeing the effects of something like that.”
While the commissioners discussed various reasons and solutions to the problem, the most immediate solution decided on was available through the judicial system.
“You know justice delayed is justice denied,” Wolff said. “It’s very expensive for us to be holding them. We just want [judges] to get them to trial, convict them, and send them to state prison if they’re guilty.”