Smith County Commissioners Meet For The Last Time This Year - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


Smith County Commissioners Meet For The Last Time This Year

Because of jail overcrowding, Smith County routinely ships prisoners to other counties.  The cost to do that is going up. The company responsible for shipping the inmates is increasing the price by $2 to $43 per day to house a prisoner elsewhere.  

The increase is projected to cost Smith County $18,000 more per month.   Per year, that amount would be $216,000.

During their last meeting of the year Monday, Smith County commissioners amended the contract with the company, to approve the new amount. Smith County Sheriff J.B. Smith says he expects the price to go up even more.  "I think it'll probably go to $45 within the next six months to a year, so it's very important that we get this jail in line and get it going," said Smith.

"The issue is, how much money can we get passed in a bond? That's the business equation of this situation. It's not just what we need," said Smith County commissioner David Stein.

A team appointed by the commissioner's court is currently working to figure out what is needed. The group is made up of members from the Smith County Sheriff's Department and private citizens. They are currently working with the firm that has been recommended to build the jail.

"The main focus of that is to look at criminal justice system to see if there are ways to reduce the inmate population," said Commissioner Joann Fleming. The firm will look at who's in the jail, how long they've been there and why.

Commissioner Fleming says the group will look at how many beds really are needed. "We have to be able to justify to the taxpayers of Smith County what we put into a bond package and why we need it," said Fleming.

"There's still a lot of research that has to be done and they'll have to work together to come to some consensus as to what they feel like is important to put out on a public vote," said Smith County judge Becky Dempsey.

County commissioners say the new commissioners court is expected to try to get a bond election put on the May ballot.   In order for that to happen, all of the information that needs to be filed with the county has to be in by the second week of March.

Oralia Ortega, Reporting.


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