State officials are warning of a possible intervention as the Dallas County jail struggles to maintain state standards amid a growing inmate population.
The Dallas County jail has been steadily edging toward maximum capacity for various reasons, including an increase in violent crimes, delays in court proceedings, and a persistent backlog of unfiled felony cases, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.
In addition, the county jail is holding a number of subjects who are awaiting transfer to state facilities, such as prisons or hospitals, which are also facing a shortage of beds.
In an effort to address at least some of these issues, the Dallas County Commissioners Court recently entered into an agreement with the North Texas Behavioral Health Authority (NTBHA) to add psychiatric hospital beds for inmates who need to regain competency before their court dates.
This effort is one attempt to mitigate issues caused by the rising jail population.
State laws dictate that if a county jail is no longer in compliance with regulations, the state will require jail officials to submit a plan to regain compliance. If the facility deviates from this plan or still experiences issues with compliance, a given county could be required to appear before the Jail Standards Commission and be ordered to relocate the inmates, with the possibility of having the correctional facility decommissioned.
Dallas County’s jail population typically averages around 6,500 inmates, which is about 91% of its maximum capacity of 7,100. As of February 2, the jail was at 86% capacity.
The Frio County Jail is one such county detention center that was shut down by Texas Commission on Jail Standards for failing to meet standards in 2015.
Dallas Commissioner John Wiley Price has consistently warned about the dangers of an overwhelming jail population, noting that a state order to move inmates to other facilities could cost the county millions of dollars.
As the County Commissioners Court prepares for its next meeting on February 7, the issue of the County Jail will doubtless continue to be watched closely.