Getting answers about a jail

By: Emi FitzGerald Email
By: Emi FitzGerald Email

GRAYSON CO., Tex.--Hundreds of people attended a public forum to talk about options for a new Grayson County jail. Residents had several questions including who would run it, potential locations, if it’s needed, and how to pay for it.

Sheriff Keith Gary and Grayson County judge Drue Bynum both said the current facility is dilapidated and over-crowded and needs to be replaced.

Grayson County commissioners have been actively pursuing different options after consultant recommended a new jail at a cost of more than $90 million. The commissioners estimate a bond would increase property taxes by about 30 cents per $100.

To avoid a high tax increase, commissioners are exploring a partnership with a private company. A for-profit company would build the jail at no cost to the taxpayer. They could even run the facility.

Some of the proposed sites include adding onto the current facility in downtown Sherman, the old Sher-Den mall site on Texoma Pkwy, and the Grayson County airport.

While some say it’s a great situation, others say...not so fast. They are concerned a for-profit company could be a liability if the company ever went bankrupt. The county would be stuck paying for a facility they aren’t budgeted to fund. They also fear the company could, over time, overcharge fees for operation.

Opponents also cited an instance in Florida where a private company built a jail, then withheld records that would ordinarily be public, but said they were private documents not open for public scrutiny. Some say the lack of accountability is troubling.

Those in attendance submitted questions answered by a panel of county leaders. Event organizers say the open discussion is democracy in action.

County commissioners expect to make a decision on the jail situation sometime in early 2008. If they do choose to enter into a private agreement, that would not require an election.

The private company would provide funding, so residents would not have to vote to pay for the building. Judge Drue Bynum said the county would make the contract available to the public.

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  • by Ralph Location: Denison on Oct 12, 2007 at 08:43 AM
    Anonymous...Collin Co did not move their jail to a less populated area. It is located in the north part of McKinney (within the city limits), a city with a population that's just a little less than the entire population of Grayson Co! However, location of a new jail is not the big issue. If Grayson privatizes their jail system, you can expect a mega-jail to be built there; one that will be importing prisoners from all over the state. It is the only way it could be profitable. The County says it would cost $96M to build our own 1200 bed jail (one that is larger than the CC jail). CC has a population at least 5X greater than Grayson, yet we require a bigger jail?!? The $96M (requiring a 30 cent tax increase) "proposal" is not seriously being considered. It is designed to scare the public over a the prospect of huge tax increase so we will buy into the only alternative the County is offering: PRIVATIZATION. Building our own jail would require voter approval. Privatization won't.
  • by Anonymous on Oct 10, 2007 at 02:25 PM
    Chris, It was annouced in adcance, you should have paid attention! The airport would be a great location, because there is plenty of room for future expansion! Take a look at Colllin County for a prime example, they moved out into less populated areas. It is that the County already owns the property at the Airport.
  • by mr moneybags Location: sherman on Oct 10, 2007 at 09:20 AM
    county commissioner should remember "pay me now or pay me later" and "you get what you pay for" --private jails have more inmate assualts on officers,more civil rights violations,more escapes,more contraband and weapons found in jail and less medical care for the inmates.
  • by Mork Location: Ork on Oct 10, 2007 at 07:36 AM
    I think some of the people that previously worked at the Bryan County Jail are available for imediate employment. They already have experience too.
  • by Anonymous on Oct 10, 2007 at 06:29 AM
    Thats brilliant, build a jail at the airport. That is a sure fire way to destroy utilizing and upgrading an airport by having a full scale jail. Bad enough juvy hall is there. I think chimps could come up with a better solution.
  • by Chris Location: Denison on Oct 10, 2007 at 06:20 AM
    I found it interesting that they waited to announce the public meeting until the day of. According to the article, there did not seem to be any mention about the multitude of problems that Bryan County has faced when an outside agency is running the jail.
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