Taylor County Jail faces overcrowding as Texas prisons remain closed to new inmates amid pandemic

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB) – Taylor County Jail leaders are developing solutions for housing more inmates as bed-space becomes increasingly backlogged with convicted inmates awaiting transport to still-closed Texas prisons.

As of Tuesday morning, Taylor County Sheriff Ricky Bishop said the jail was nearly at capacity with 758 of its 826 inmate spots filled at the jail.

“Within the last month we’ve gained 130 prisoners,” said Sheriff Bishop.

Sheriff Bishop also says there are more than 200 inmates convicted of their crimes and ready for transport, however the ongoing closure of the prisons has left them stranded at the jail until further notice.

“We’re going to have to start putting mattresses on the floor and doubling up if other jails won’t take our inmates,” said Sheriff Bishop.

Taylor County Criminal District Attorney James Hicks says the jail always has trouble with the flow of inmates but the pandemic has amplified those problems.

“We always have a population issue but no one expected TDCJ just to stop taking inmates,” said Hicks.

Hicks says another reason there’s a holdup at the jail is because parole boards have been slow to make decisions on parole violators who could be taking up valuable space in the facility.

“If I could get the parole out and get [those going to prison] out to prison, we would be at the lowest number we’ve been in inmate population in a long time,” said Hicks.

As prison-ready inmates sit in the jail for long periods of time, their cost of living also causes problems for the County’s bottom line.

“If we have them more then 45 days the state pays us for housing that prisoner, as of right now I’m hearing nothing about reimbursement,” said Sheriff Bishop.

Sheriff Bishop says there are 66 inmates in the jail currently fitting that 45-day criteria, but with nowhere to go for the time being that number is likely to climb.

Sheriff Bishop also says the state has not paid the county for housing those convicted inmates because of Governor Abbott’s disaster declaration, he’s not received word of when or if the county will be compensated for that cost.

Both Sheriff Bishop and Hicks say prisons could reopen in mid-July with restrictions; however, the details of those restrictions have not yet been determined.

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