When voters approved the expansion of the Kerr County jail, they were looking toward the future, and Sheriff W.R. “Rusty” Hierholzer is being a good steward of that vision by working to minimize the cost of maintaining the jail. 

The current jail is bigger than what the county needs at the moment, but Hierholzer has smartly moved to take on overflow inmate populations from counties across Texas. The move is on track to earn $1 million this year in revenue from fees to house those prisoners. 

Recently, Kerr County took on a number of prisoners from the Odessa area in West Texas. Hierholzer has been candid in his assessment that, although the program does increase some jail expenses, the benefit outweighs the costs. 

In fact, the county’s auditor submitted information indicating that the jail income is about 2.7 cents per $100 of assessed value. That doesn’t seem like much, but in a county with a significant deficit, this is a pragmatic approach to helping combat costs. If it wasn’t in place, the jail’s maintenance costs would probably not justify the staffing levels or operation costs that voters approved. 

Hierholzer, who is headed for retirement, has served the county as a thoughtful and conservative manager of the department, and this is another example of his leadership, which will be missed. 

True to the nature of this project, Hierholzer is the first to admit this is only a temporary solution because, inevitably — and somewhat unfortunately — the county’s jail population will probably increase to the point that all available beds are used. The county is growing, and there are still issues with drugs and crime that will continue to nag us. 

However, for now, we can thank the sheriff for a pragmatic approach that is easing the burden on taxpayers.

(4) comments

POPE

I saw Sheriff Salazar (Bexar County Sheriff) on TV this morning giving a press conference regarding a poor fellow who died while in custody while in Bexar County jail. Salazar talked about the need to reduce unnecessary jailing’s, and quoted an up dated operational cost of $67.00 per day per prisoner. Every Sheriff in Texas knows what their operational costs are to jail prisoners. What are our costs? Of course the local press is in such a rush to take a political stand, they forgot to ask this most basic question. The simple truth is nobody wants to ask the question because they already know the answer will contradict all we have been told about what a wonderful money machine the jail is, and we certainly don’t want to let the truth get between the GOB and their government mother’s milk.

POPE

Bexar County did an extensive study of county jail costs in Texas. Part of the findings were the Statewide Average Cost to County Taxpayers to incarcerate one individual in county jail per day is $59.00 (page 3, ph 3). The KDT and the Sheriff are promoting the positive economics with news story after news story, yet the fail to mention any hard profit projections or any comparable jail costs, and there is overwhelming data indicating what these average costs are in Texas. Instead of hard facts and reasonable numbers, we are pitched obtuse and shifting economics like cents per $100 assessed value, excluding costs, and gross income excluding costs. We are losing money every day on each prisoner we import. No one will respond to the facts contained in this series of posts because the interested parties know I am correct. Now the plot thickens with the simple question; why are we doing this? Here is a link to the referenced Bexar County study: https://www.texascjc.org/system/files/publications/Adult%20Bexar%20County%20Data%20Sheet%202016_0.pdf

POPE

I find it interesting that the Sheriff and the KDT are now changing the narrative on what will be done with the jail “profits”. Several weeks ago the narrative was the profits were going to be used to pay down on the bond debt. Today the new narrative is the profits will help pay jail maintenance. Which is it, debt reduction or maintenance? Paying down the debt would require an accounting trail, so that will not happen. The real truth is $50.00 per prisoner per day is at or less than cost actual cost. The proper action is to mothball the unused portion of the jail, and work on ways to decrease jail occupancy. Many active and retired businessmen read this paper, and there is high “deal awareness” in this community. These folks see through this smoke and mirrors economics, and the KDT did itself no favors when it ran the headline “Inmate transfers net $1M for Kerr County jail”. Only reporting income and ignoring costs, as well as comparative costs should raise red flags.

POPE

The Sheriff and the KDT present the economics of the “incarceration for profit” program in terms of income and fail to account for costs. Texas houses well over 220,000 inmates, and the cost to incarcerate in Texas has been studied from every angle, and much of this information is accessible to the public on the internet. The average cost to house an inmate in Texas prisons is $47.50 per day, according to Michelle Lyons, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. We are charging $50.00 per day. There is no profit here, except for those who sell goods and services to the jail. We are told the profit will be used for debt reduction, but there is no profit and there will be no debt reduction from the program. We all know this to be true. The Commissioners are simply taking more money out of the County coffers to cover the excess costs. The program is also bad for Kerr County on a social level, as we are importing criminals, as well as their friends and associates. This is an ugly business at best, and an economic loser for the good folks of Kerr County. It is also fair to point out that the KDT and the Sheriff did not disclose there were discussions regarding this program prior to the bond vote. The bond proposal would have been defeated if the voters knew the truth, in my opinion. Now the deception continues in the form of misleading economics of the “incarceration for profit” program. There will never be an accounting of profit from this program because there is no profit, and economics will be presented in the most broad and vague terms, which is the hallmark of the GOB. This is the simple truth and neither the Sheriff, KDT nor the County Treasurer can dispute these facts with accounting or other evidence.

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