The Hidalgo County Jail is currently overcrowded. With 1,232 beds in their facility, there are more than 200 inmates currently being housed at other facilities and it is costing tax payers millions of dollars annually.
Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra says the overcrowding at the jail is nothing new. What is new is that he says he has a plan.
“We keep kicking this can down the road and now it’s caught up with us. We’ve got to do something.”
The current jail was built in 2003. Since it was first built the county has sent inmates to other facilities. Sheriff Guerra says the county’s growth in population, larger police agencies in the county, including 150 additional state troopers, and the federal governments zero tolerance on immigration has made the problem worsen.
“Today I am taking any bed I can get my hands on.” Said the Sheriff.
Sheriff Guerra says the county must ship inmates to other facilities to stay in compliance with the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. The county has agreements with nearby facilities to house inmates, but Guerra says the zero-tolerance policy has added federal prisoners to those facilities and facilities are opting to house those inmates instead, creating a crisis for the county jail.
“The federal government pays a lot more per day than what we currently do.”
The Sheriff says last year the county spent $3.8 million to house inmates at other facilities. Now he has a plan to build temporary barracks, that could potentially save tax payers money.
“We proposed that idea to our county government, our commissioners court, and yesterday during commissioners’ court meeting they did approve three. I believe it was three architectural firms.
Those firms along with members of commissioners’ court and members of the sheriff’s office will now form an evaluation committee. They will look into the cost of building five to six barracks which will each house 48 inmates. The sheriff says they feel that is the fastest resolution.
Sheriff Guerra hopes to have those temporary barracks built in about six months. Before the jail’s plan can move forward with building the temporary barracks, the county must submit a long term plan to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.