KETR Local
10:17 am
Fri May 15, 2009

Hopkins County to form long-range plan for jail

Hopkins County – The Texas Commission on Jail Standards decides to keep Hopkins County under a remedial order for their noncompliance with its current jail facility.

The commission also during a recent meeting ordered Hopkins County Judge Cletus Millsap, along with commissioners to develop a long-range plan by August.

That plan, according to Millsap, could include a bond proposal. Millsap says he's recently met with engineering firms that have done work on other jails, including a group that recently built a private jail in Fannin County. He's also considering working with Hunt and Lamar Counties.

Millsap estimates the jail bond, if proposed, would cost between $15 and $25 million, and include approximately 190 cells, compared to the 100 the current facility has. The extra cells could be used to house inmates from other jails, helping recoup costs on the building.

That could be tough to get by taxpayers, as Sulphur Springs residents just passed at $48.4 million bond toward school improvements. The current cost to residents for county operations is .56 cents per $100 valuation.

"Nobody really wants to increase their taxes to house a bunch of hoodlums," says Millsap, noting the recent tea parties held nationwide on April 15 to protest taxes.

Hopkins County has been under agreements with Titus and Franklin Counties over the past several months, where inmates that exceed 95 are sent to those counties.

Millsap says each inmate costs the county $40 per day, and housing 10-12 inmates at neighboring counties could cost them up to $200,000 each year.

He says the county will continue to work to protect its residents and put criminals behind bars; but there needs to be a place to put them and at a reasonable cost to taxpayers.

"We're gonna protect your property and we're going to do the best we can to bring these bad guys in. We do want them in jail but we've got to find a place to put them."

One of the issues with overcrowding is the amount of traffic/drug arrests along Interstate 30 by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Inmates arrested by the DPS can be housed in local jails for no more than 35 days, but according to Millsap, those inmates aren't being picked up before that deadline, costing the county more. At one point this year, 18 people were brought in one night following a DPS sting operation along I-30. Hopkins County's holding cell, however, is built to only hold 13 people.

Millsap gives credit to Hopkins County Sheriff's officials, noting they are solving about 95% of cases, a far greater number than in previous years. The quicker those cases are solved, the quicker inmates can be released or moved to another facility.

The county is also trying to find avenues in which to obtain a portion of stimulus money, signed into law earlier this year by President Obama.