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Sheriff again asking for money to house inmates out of the county, says it won’t be the last time

The Lubbock County Detention Center is located at 405 N. Holly St.
Provided by the Lubbock County Sheriff's Office
The Lubbock County Detention Center is located at 405 N. Holly St.

Lubbock County Commissioners approved a budget amendment to increase money for contracts to house inmates out of the county.

Sheriff Kelly Rowe spoke to commissioners at Monday’s meeting and said Lubbock County’s Detention Center is again near capacity and the overcrowding is only expected to increase.

This isn’t the first time the Sheriff’s Office has called for more money and expansion for facilities to address overcrowding and understaffing - and Rowe said it won’t be the last. The Lubbock County Detention Center, 3502 N. Holly St., opened in 2010 because they needed more beds even then.

Overcrowding and understaffing have been expensive issues in large and small facilities across the state.

In March, commissioners approved a contract with Montague County, one of a number of contracts Lubbock County has undertaken to house local inmates in other counties.

Rowe said even finding facilities with available beds “within a reasonable range” to contract with is difficult. Rowe said contracts are being negotiated with the Dalby Unit in nearby Garza County, where inmates from Tarrant and Harris Counties are already being housed.

County Judge Curtis Parrish asked the sheriff, “If all of these inmates, these 121 inmates that we’re housing out were brought back to Lubbock, we’d be two over capacity, right?”

“Exactly, we would be, we would be taken out of compliance,” Rowe replied.

Rowe referred to some as “revenue-based prisoners,” federal inmates housed here because of Lubbock’s federal courthouse. Rowe said almost all of them have been removed.

The Sheriff’s Office has focused on getting citizens with minor offenses through and out of the local system. Rowe told commissioners roughly two-thirds of the population are those facing felony charges and awaiting trial.

Rowe said rule changes like Senate Bill 6, signed into law in 2021 to eliminate cashless bonds for some charges, has only made it tougher to get inmates through the system. Inmates with serious mental illness have different legal and medical needs that also play a role in extending pre-trial detention.

“When competency is a question, that is one of the biggest things bogging the system down, and we have a number of individuals where that is applicable,” Rowe said.

The Sheriff’s Office asked for $1 million. However, Rowe said he only expects this to possibly get them through July, as the summer represents a peak time for new inmates.

The Sheriff’s Office estimated next year’s cost could be around $3 million. Judge Parrish said even if the commissioners and voters approved jail expansion, it would be three to five years before it would be built.

Brad Burt is a reporter for KTTZ, born and raised in Lubbock. He has made a point to focus on in-depth local coverage, including civic and accountability reporting. Brad's professional interest in local journalism started on set as a member of the technical production team at KCBD Newschannel 11 before becoming a digital and investigative producer.