Dallas County Jail Filling to Capacity


Dallas County Jail | Image by Edie Thomas/Shutterstock

As the Dallas County Jail population continues to hover close to maximum capacity, the County Commissioners Court and other politicians wrestle with how to address the issue.

One of the factors allegedly contributing to the number of inmates being held in jail is the persistent backlog of unfiled felony cases. Roughly 15% of the jail population are those who have been arrested for a suspected felony but are still waiting for those charges to be filed and addressed by the District Attorney’s office.

At the most recent meeting of the County Commissioners Court, the jail reported that during the month of November, an average of 900 inmates were being held without any charges being filed. In December, that number had increased to an average of 929.

Texas law allows prosecutors up to 90 days to file felony charges. If that does not happen, the person being held is entitled to be released without a surety under a personal recognizance bond.

The county jail has surpassed 88% of its capacity. A 2019 policy change on when inmates are released if charges are not filed — from 30 days to 90 — has contributed to the growing jail population.

County officials said they plan to “discuss potential relief measures for the criminal justice process next month.”

The problem affects not only the ability of inmates to have their day in court but also presents a potential threat to the county’s financial security.

For example, the “daily cost per incarcerated person is $67.20 and annual cost per incarcerated person is $24,528,” according to estimates provided to the Commissioners Court. In November, the last month for which complete data is available, the county spent over $12 million on housing its prison population.

Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot responded to the growing issue by suggesting that there were a number of factors that caused the backlog, including instances where people in jail have additional pending cases, which affects the process for addressing the specific felony.

Nevertheless, Creuzot stressed the necessity of resolving the problem, noting, “I have seen in the past where the population has ballooned to that point, and it’s never good … At some point, that becomes unsustainable.”

Creuzot himself, however, has received substantial criticism for some of the changes he enacted upon taking office to reform the legal system in Dallas County. Namely, Creuzot implemented a theft amnesty policy where he refused to prosecute thefts under $750 if the thief was driven by “necessity,” as reported by The Dallas Express.

After Creuzot took office in 2019, Dallas has suffered from thousands of more property and violent crimes than before his inauguration, according to data retrieved from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In response to growing public outcry, Creuzot recently reversed that policy.

Like many cities nationwide, Dallas saw increased crime rates in 2022, especially in December Crime Boss of the Month Jesse Moreno’s District 2.

However, Moreno’s district is not the only one The Dallas Express highlighted for rising crime this year. November crime in District 6 made Deputy Mayor Pro Tempore and City Councilmember Omar Narvaez the Crime Boss runner-up.

As the rate of violent crime in Dallas stays close to constant, other crimes, like auto thefts, have skyrocketed in recent years, as previously reported in The Dallas Express.

The county will continue to seek solutions for the jail population issue at a special meeting reportedly scheduled for early next, where the Commissioners Court, the District Attorney, various judges, and additional political actors will gather to present and discuss reforms to the local criminal justice system to alleviate the problem.

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2 months ago

Hey, you liberal piece of human excrement, Creuzot, get off your liberal arse and do something about the rise in crime in our fair city and county!! This city is NOT safe at all since you took office!! Crime is crime just because the amount of the theft is under $750 doesn’t make it less of a crime!! Criminals need consequences for committing crimes!! What is so difficult to understand about that?!

Reply to  Anna
2 months ago

Are you willing to volunteer to work in the DA’s office to help reduce the felony case load filings, or pay more taxes to help reduce the cost of incarceration?