At a time when the Commissioners Court is preparing to take on millions in debt to fund jail projects, records show a marked decline in yearly jail numbers throughout Sheriff Roger Deeds’ 11 years in office.
In 2008, the year Deeds defeated incumbent Sheriff Gene Mayo in the Republican primary with no Democrat on the November ballot, the number of inmates processed by Hood County totaled 3,806. After Deeds took office in January 2009, numbers began declining. In 2019, the total number of inmates was 1,795.
Three times during Deeds’ tenure, numbers rose from the year before but not by much. During most of the years, the numbers were significantly lower than during the terms of Deeds’ two predecessors – Mayo, who was sheriff from 2005-2008, and Allan Hardin, who served from 1996-2004.
The HCN examined numbers dating back to 2000, 20 years ago. The newspaper did not research numbers during Hardin’s entire time in office.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hood County’s population was 41,353 in 2000. By 2017, the most recent year for which figures are available, the population had risen to 58,273. The county was recently deemed the ninth fastest-growing county in the country.
Crime rates tend to increase along with population. Nevertheless, last year’s jail numbers were 914 less than they were almost two decades earlier.
The numbers represented all inmates processed by Hood County, including those housed at other jails due to space issues.
Inmates processed at the Hood County Jail are arrested by other law enforcement agencies besides the sheriff’s office. They include those arrested by state troopers and the Granbury Police Department.
County Attorney Matt Mills said he was told by a representative of the Texas Department of Public Safety that arrests in Hood County by state troopers are down, though the representative was unable to provide solid numbers. Mills said that DPS at times has a lower profile in Hood County, such as when state troopers are diverted to the border.
For years Deeds has told Commissioners Court members that the county’s 192-bed jail for male inmates is overcrowded, forcing him to house inmates at other county jails.
This appears to be true, despite the lower annual inmate numbers.
Many inmates spend months in a cell waiting for their cases to be adjudicated, and some are incarcerated for well over a year. Many are jailed for low-level drug crimes. The cost to taxpayers is approximately $45 per day per inmate.
Female inmates have always been housed at other locations because of space issues and because of state jail regulations requiring that they be separated from male inmates by sight and sound.
Deeds recently told the Commissioners Court that finding facilities able to accept Hood County’s female inmates is growing increasingly challenging because the overall crime rate among females is increasing.
Deeds is running for a fourth four-year term and has two challengers in the March primary: David Streiff and Greg Neal.
Both Streiff and Neal, who briefly worked as a deputy under Deeds, said they feel that the sheriff’s department is top-heavy and that there are not enough deputies patroling and making arrests.
Deeds refuses to communicate with the HCN.
The sheriff’s office has 140 employees, not counting Deeds. Of that number, 18 are patrol deputies, according to county records.
Deputies work in 12-hour shifts. According to Neal, there are four shifts, allowing each deputy to have two days off per week. Each shift typically includes four deputies as well as one sergeant and one corporal, he said.
Neal stated that in his view “minimum staffing” for the growing county should be six or seven deputies per shift, and ideally there should be nine or 10 patroling during each shift.
The county spans 437 square miles. About 16 square miles is water and 14 square miles is the city of Granbury.
Mills, who drew an opponent in the primary because of the drop in misdemeanor prosecutions by his office, has pointed to low numbers at the jail as the cause. However, he stated that the Granbury Police Department “has been the one constant” in terms of sending his office cases to prosecute.
Apparently, then, Granbury police officers are making arrests and issuing citations.
PRICE TAG: MILLIONS
No one seems to question that money needs to be spent to make repairs and upgrades to the current jail, which is inside the Law Enforcement Center (LEC).
Facilities Maintenance Director Jay Riley said that plumbing is deteriorating at the LEC, which was built in 1994, and that electrical work might also be in order.
Commissioners Court members also seem to agree with Deeds that a facility for female inmates is needed. Discussions have involved plans for a 96-bed, 15,700-square-foot building that could be expanded in coming years.
The projected cost for that building is about $10 million.
No solid figures have been compiled for repairs and remodeling at the LEC. Precinct 2 Commissioner Ron Cotton said that the county will likely take on the building of a jail for females and remodeling of the current jail for men at the same time.
It is believed that the LEC is probably structurally sound and can be renovated rather than the county building a new jail.
Precinct 1 Commissioner James Deaver said that if a new jail were to be built to house both male and female inmates, it would likely cost about $40 million.
Although at a December workshop the Commissioners Court seemed poised to possibly move forward with plans presented to them by DRG Architects of San Antonio, Cotton and Deaver said the county is tapping the brakes in order to consult with other architects to ensure locking up the best price.
“There’s a lot of work to be done,” Cotton said. “If we pulled the trigger today, we probably wouldn’t break ground until next year.”
Construction of the women’s jail and renovation of the current jail would be the first phase of a project that may ultimately include the building of a second facility for male inmates.
Phase one is expected to be funded through Certificates of Obligation with no property tax rate increase.
The new building is projected to meet the county’s needs for female inmates for the next 8-10 years.
Cotton said that a DRG representative phoned him to ask if the hiring of his company will be on the agenda for Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Commissioners Court.
It isn’t, but Cotton indicated to the HCN that the court does have every intention of moving forward with the project.
“We haven’t stopped, but we’ve slowed down,” he said. “We have to do our due diligence and do the right thing.”
email@example.com | 817-573-7066, ext. 258