Jail overcrowding in North Texas

By: Daniel Gotera Email
By: Daniel Gotera Email

Jail overcrowding is a problem for courthouses across the nation and right here in Texoma. Grayson County is one of several Texas counties discussing how to deal with the situation. Daniel Gotera talked to officials from other counties to see what is working for them.

Last week, Grayson County officials announced they plan to look into expanding the current jail. Fannin County is looking to private sector for help, but officials in Cooke County say they've figured it out. So we asked them how they deal with an increasing number of inmates.

To build or not to build a new jail. That is the question Grayson County officials say they've been asking for about the past five years. But those same headaches are being felt 15 miles to the east in Fannin County.

"Everything is tied to the almighty dollar,” Fannin County sheriff Kenneth Moore says in this year’s budget, $300,000 have been allotted to pay for housing prisoners out of county, a dollar figure he says doesn't need to be there.

"I’d like to see that money go elsewhere like more salaries and more area of county government."

Fannin County's 96-bed jail was built back in 2001, and it’s no secret they need more room. The only problem is doubling the current size of the facility would cost $8 million dollars-- money not available to the county right now.

"There are private investors who spend the money to build a facility and then they hire a company to run that facility."

Officials say taking the private sector route is possible. The county has been in talks with one company for the past year and a half to build a 400-bed facility, but holding a bond election has worked well for other counties like Cooke County.

Officials there finished their new $8 million jail in 2005 and have never had to deal with overcrowding. In fact, county judge bill freeman says they charge Grayson and Fannin counties $42 a day to house their prisoners.

"Spending $600,000 outside the county to what I believe last year we made a $400,000-$500,000 income housing other people’s prisoners."

It’s a luxury which would be available in Fannin County with a private company jail with no additional prices to tax payers.

"There’s a lot of things that are going on that have a direct impact on the tax dollars that are spent where we don’t have to spend tax dollars. Somebody else is spending their money."

Sheriff Moore says the county is still in talks with the private company to negotiate a price the county would receive for each inmate housed at the private jail.

There is no current timetable as to when anything will be finalized.

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