- 1) County Officials have held open public discussions on the plan for more than a year and have held more than a dozen public community meetings to engage citizens. Our Watchdog Committee is present at every weekly and special meeting of the Commissioners Court. Because we’ve been to these meetings, we know the Commissioners Court and County Law Enforcement officials have been pro-active in communicating the details, have answered all questions we posed, and have provided supporting documentation which is posted on the county website for all to see at http://www.smith-county.com/Commissioners/Jail/Default.aspx .
- 2) County Criminal Justice System improvements include two programs to process people through the criminal justice system more efficiently than ever before. The Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee (courts, district attorney, & law enforcement) works to make the system more cost-efficient. The Alternative to Incarceration program takes some non-violent offenders out of jail on a voluntary basis, but these programs cannot eliminate the need for more cells for medium and high risk inmates who should be behind bars.
- 3) This is a “need” not a “want.” For the last seven years, $17 million of our local property taxes have been spent in other counties to house our inmates. Why? We don’t have enough medium & high risk beds to lock down inmates! Medium risk includes: Assault, burglary of a habitation, possession of drugs other than marijuana – crack, meth, cocaine, heroin. High risk includes: Murder, rape, aggravated assault, sexual assaults, kidnapping, armed robbery.
- 4) Law Enforcement is at increased risk. In 2004 the TX Commission on Jail Standards issued a remedial order to stop jail over-crowding. Since then, our law enforcement officers have had to keep up with inmates in as many as eight counties at a time! Transport officers constantly move inmates across country for court appearances at a staggering amount of extra time and cost to you. This puts the men and women who wear the law enforcement uniform and the public at greater risk every time an inmate is moved.
- 5) Tents are not an option. County jails must meet construction & operational standards set by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. The TCJS mandates square footage of cell space, inmate recreation, library materials, visitation, medical attention and three meals a day. Because of a federal court ruling years ago, Texas sheriffs don’t get to manage jails like the sheriff in Arizona. If state legislation passes to allow tents, the tents would need to be in compliance with all of the standards imposed by the federal ruling and would likely be approved only for low risk inmates. These tents would go up out in the rural part of the county. Where would they go – next to your neighborhood?
- 6) Jail plan can and will save tax dollars! The contract cost we pay to other counties to house inmates does not include the cost of transporting each inmate multiple times for court appearances and the mandated expenses for indigent defense for these inmates. Our medical costs are also higher for the shipped-out inmates. After taking into account the annual operational savings made possible by moving the inmates back to Smith County and adding in the construction and debt service, we will still save $6.98 per day per inmate over what we are spending now. A big cost-cutter is the in-house infirmary which will keep our inmates out of the emergency rooms and doctors’ offices and securely behind bars. This is safer for law enforcement, medical staff, and for citizens. We estimate the infirmary alone will save county taxpayers between $600, 000 and $800,000 per year. We don’t like debt either, but the Commissioners Court has a sound business plan and has pledged to work hard to pay this debt off early. Grassroots America – We the People will be here to hold them to that pledge!
Political advertisement paid for by the GAWTP PAC, P.O. Box 130012, Tyler, TX 75713, Jimmie Taylor, PAC Treasurer.