Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Should Jail Be A Money Maker?

Sheriff Dan Smith gave a presentation on the new Bell County Jail to a civic and business group. In the story there were some interesting comments about the jail being a money making venture. If you'll remember, voters rejected several jail proposals prior to the construction of the jail.
"These facilities didn't come about without some birthing pains," Smith said.

"I know the facility was controversial for some people in the county. People were opposed to the location of the jail since it is near housing subdivisions. The architect and Commissioners Court wanted something aesthetically nice for the area."

The new jail is the third in the county. There is a capacity for 1,300 inmates among all county jails.

Smith said the county was paying thousands of dollars to house inmates in neighboring Limestone and Milam counties before the new jail was built. At the time there were only 706 beds for more than 800 inmates at the county jail.

The previous facility is currently being renovated, and will be used to lease out space for other county's inmates. Smith said the jail will re-open in about a year. The money gained from the venture will go toward the county's general revenue. Source: Killeen Daily Herald

Should the purpose of having extra jail space be to make money? As it stands right now, the money making incentive makes for bad justice policy.

For example, if Bell County sentences a local offender to probation, the County gets funding from the State to pay for the costs associated with Community Supervision and the jail bed that offender would have occupied can be rented out to another County. If that local offender is jailed, the County does not get the State Community Supervision money and that space is unavailable for rent.

In short, locking up a Bell County offender costs the County money twice. Giving him probation allows the County to make money off the deal. Do you see any incentive for the County to turn local crooks loose for any reason? Is this really what communities want from their County jail?

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