Officials Discuss County Jail Population

county jail
Close up of an inmate shirt. | Image by Gabriele Maltinti/Shutterstock

The county sheriff addressed the looming capacity crisis at the Dallas County jail after the issue was brought before City leaders this week.

As previously reported by The Dallas Express, the county jail has nearly reached maximum capacity amid ongoing dysfunction in operations that county officials have blamed on new case management software. On Wednesday, Dallas County Sheriff Marian Brown dismissed concerns about the jail being overpopulated.

“I just want people to understand we are not overcrowded,” she said, according to CBS News Texas. “I don’t want people to feel the jail is about to bulge at the seams.”

Brown acknowledged that the jail had reached 98% capacity but said residents should not worry.

“There is no reason for people to be concerned that we are going to start just randomly releasing people who don’t need to be released into the community,” she said. “That is absolutely not going to happen.”

She added that some inmates may be transferred to other locations but maintained that they will not be released back onto the streets.

“We may be close to the line, but we are not at the line, and we haven’t gone over the line,” Brown insisted. “There is no overcrowding in the Dallas County jail.”

Earlier in the week, other county leaders, including Commissioner John Wiley Price and District Attorney John Creuzot, briefed the Dallas City Council Public Safety Committee on the situation.

“When you hear 98% capacity, you sound very confident in managing that, but it just sounds like there’s not a lot of headroom there. I would like to have more comfort around that,” said Council Member Gay Donnell Willis (District 13).

Price attempted to “quell all the concerns” and affirmed the county’s commitment to public safety.

“First and foremost, it’s always going to be about public safety, and what you present at our door is what we have to detain,” he said. “And they’re there until the courts decide otherwise.”

Creuzot added that inmates must be formally charged within 90 days of incarceration, and several dozen prisoners are approaching that deadline.

“That’s not a large number for us, but when you’re talking about public safety, anyone may be that unacceptable person, and we understand that,” he said. “We’re in constant communication with our law enforcement agencies.”

Creuzot said some offenders with a mental illness or who struggle with drug and alcohol abuse are being directed to treatment centers instead of the jail.

“To the extent that we can have those people not going into the Dallas County jail and be expensive consumers of the jail, we can help solve this problem of 98%,” he said.

“When we get down to the mentally ill, the homeless, people who are impaired, the police chiefs see that we’re wasting a lot of time putting these people in jail. They’re crowding up the jail,” Creuzot continued. “The crisis of violent crime has caused our police chiefs to reevaluate how they are policing and where they put their resources.”

As previously reported by The Dallas Express, some of Creuzot’s detractors have characterized him as being soft on crime, pointing to his short-lived experimental non-prosecution policy for thefts valued at under $750.

Both Creuzot and Price maintained the same position as other county officials that new case management software has contributed to the jail’s problems.

“We don’t know if the case is set. We don’t know who the defense lawyer is and all of those things. We don’t even know who to talk to,” he claimed. “So, if I can’t see who the defense lawyer is, the problem for the defense is they can’t see where their client is. If they’ve been appointed, they don’t know.”

County officials also asked the City to contribute more than $8.5 million in taxpayer money to cover the City’s share of expenses for the jail.

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