For several weeks now, the Jim Wells County jail has had to turn individuals, who have been arrested, away from their facility to prevent from being in noncompliant with Texas jail standards.
As of Thursday afternoon, the jail had a total of 74 inmates with 65 men and nine females, according to Chief Deputy Louie Valadez with the Jim Wells County Sheriff's Office.
“Jail standards says we can only hold 88 (inmates) to be in compliance. The issue is when dealing with females. We can make accommodations for putting them into population, but their cells can't be adjoining to males,” Valadez said. “The jail must also follow the 'out of sight and sound', but that's hard in a small jail when you can hear somebody yelling from one side to the other.”
Because of these accommodations they have empty cell space in between male and females. Another issue is classification of inmates; jail administrators must also classify gang members, especially rival gangs who can not be housed together. There are also inmates who are in protective custody and suicide watch.
“Meaning we no longer have 88 (beds) and lowers the amount of inmates we can house, Valadez stated.
Instead of taking so many offenders to jail on non-violent offenses, the law enforcement agencies have had to release individuals after an arrest has been made.
The jail still accepts suspects with out-of-district warrants, no-bond warrants, people who face probation revocation and all defendants with major offenses.
In the early 2000's the jail went from 30 beds to 88 beds and now they are seeing a need for more space based on the volume of calls and amount of arrest that have been made, especially when there are large events in the area, Valadez said.
The jail houses individuals arrested by several law enforcement agencies such as the Department of Public Safety, Ben Bolt, City of Alice, Orange Grove and Premont. There are more officer in the force and the communities in JWC have shown significant growth which also means more crime, but no additional room at the jail, he said.
“The population of the jail has grown steadily over the past several years,” Valadez said. “This is occurring across the nation.”
Valadez says that they can house inmates in other facilities, but than the taxpayer is left paying the bill for each inmate, per day and transports there and back for court.