After two years of trending down, the average population at the Galveston County Jail has been steadily increasing since 2012, according to statistics from the county.

Corrections officials said it’s difficult to pinpoint specific causes for an increase in inmate population, which is occurring at county jails throughout the state. Changing economic conditions, trends in drug use and even the time of year are among the factors that can contribute to fluctuations in the jail population.

As county commissioners take a closer look at increasing efficiency in the local criminal justice system — the county has recently paid outside consultants to examine the system with an emphasis on intra-agency coordination and its effect on the jail population  — managing the number of inmates could prove critical.

Justice system report

In April, commissioners received a preliminary report from Griffith, Moseley, Johnson and Associates, a consulting firm that was paid about $70,000 to assess the county’s criminal justice system.

John Johnson, vice president and general counsel at the firm, credited Galveston County Commissioners for analyzing ways to cut costs in the criminal justice system, which typically consumes the largest part of a county’s yearly budget. The corrections budget for Galveston County is about $21.5 million.

The report examines how almost every aspect of the county’s criminal justice system, from booking to pre-trial release to court caseloads, can impact the average daily population at the jail.

After trending down from an average daily jail population of 987 inmates in 2010 to 847 inmates in 2012, the population began increasing. The average daily population in 2013 was 894 inmates, and from January to June of this year, the count has remained at an average of 947, according to numbers from the sheriff’s office.

Bookings at the county jail have also increased since 2012, according to the report. From April 2013 to March 2014, “bookings have outpaced releases by 377,” at a rate of 1.95 percent.

The number of days an inmate occupied a bed in the county jail has also been on the upswing, increasing 7.5 percent in 2013, according to the report.

“If the increase in jail bed days continues at the 2013 rate of 7.5 percent, the county could expect 25,056 additional jail bed days in 2014” at an added cost of about $1.25 million, according to the report.

Other county jails across the state are also seeing an increasing jail population, Johnson said. Determining the reasons behind the trend is difficult, and involves analysis of municipal police work, operations at the county jail and how cases are processed through the court system as a whole, he said.

Some of the difficulty in Galveston County, according to the report, is a dearth of adequate data caused in part by a “lack of integration” among information technology systems used by the county.

Capacity

During the summer, when school is out and parts of the county see a large influx of tourists and visitors, the inmate population is bound to increase, corrections Chief Deputy Mary Johnson said.

Longer-term fluctuations in inmate population can vary depending on economic factors, trends in drug use and other issues, she said.

The county jail is built to house just shy of 1,200 inmates, with a rated capacity of 1,171 beds.

In June 2013, the jail’s average daily population was 882 inmates. This June, the average inmate population was at 990, about 85 percent of the jail’s capacity.

When county jails reach 90 percent capacity, segregation of inmates becomes more difficult and puts a strain on resources, according to the report.

If the population hits a certain level, the Galveston County Jail could request variances from the state, allowing measures such as extra beds per cell block, Johnson said.

Jail populations are swelling across the state, Galveston County corrections officials said.

Overtime

The report recommends the county increase staffing at the jail, noting that more than $800,000 was spent on overtime pay at the jail in 2013. The county jail employs about 280 people, with 225 assigned to jail security, according to the report.

Sheriff Henry Trochesset said the jail was adequately staffed when every employee was available.

However, employees on leave on sick days or vacation can require the sheriff’s office to pay deputies overtime, he said.

The state requires an officer-to-inmate ratio of one officer for every 48 inmates at the county jail. To maintain that ratio, the sheriff’s office, which also supplies security at the county courthouse among its various other law enforcement functions, is sometimes required to pay corrections officers overtime, he said.

“It’s an everyday thing, trying to find the happy medium,” Trochesset said.

The preliminary report examines possible methods to reduce the average daily population at the county jail, including the expansion of specialty court programs and the privatization of some evidence testing to expedite court cases.

Earlier this month, County Judge Mark Henry signed a memorandum of understanding with the incoming judge for the 212th District Court, Patricia Grady, who will work as a consultant to analyze and build on the findings in the report.

Grady, who will receive $2,100 a week, has been tasked with recommending ways to cut costs and increase efficiency in the county’s justice system.

Contact reporter Alex Macon at 409-683-5241 or alex.macon@galvnews.com.

(13) comments

Robert Young

So let me get this straight, Judge Henry goes and hires his former secretary and buddy's wife and pays her $2100 a week of your taxmoney (to tell him for the third time) that the Sheriff needs more money to hire deputies for the jail?

Sheriff and the first consultants have already communicated that to him.

This consuling contract is unnecessary and thru his alter ego, his wife, just further enriches the family of Judge John Grady, an elected sitting county judge, These two Judges will be pulling down 300 thousand a year in 2015... It appears under this consultant contract she is charged with reviewing her husbands court.. I'll bet he gets a passing grade. Your tax dollars at work!

Stevie Maradeo

I see the first spike came from when the new county jail was opened. Probably had to justify the expense. And now GPD was an increase in officers and (what a surprise) the jail is overflowing. How many came from Galveston?

And what sense does it make to pay someone $2,100 a week to figure out to cut cost? Here's one idea- don't pay someone $2,100 a week to figure out how to cut cost. Most jobs that is in someone's job description, like maybe the Sheriff...

Curtiss Brown

I am surprised the cost per day/per jailed is still $50.00 Interesting.

George Croix

Good observation.
Maybe all the illegals along the border should be put in jail, then, since the DHS' Jeh Johnso says taxpayers are spending 250 to 1000 bucks per person, per day, on them.

Jim Forsythe

Hope they are looking at ankle monitors. This is one way of reducing the number in the jail.

YeaRight

Mmm

rah

Instead of slapping their hands when they are younger with citation skip the citations and give them something harsher. A lot of these received citations while in school and they collected those like Beanie Babies. Make a harsher impression earlier on so they do not want to return for 3 meals a day, clean clothes, and a place to sleep

George Croix

April 14, 2014
Two convicted sex offenders who allegedly killed and raped four women in Orange County while wearing their required GPS monitoring devices may have had additional victims, police said Monday.
The evidence shows that the men allegedly committed the crimes while wearing their GPS bracelets.
“The GPS was in fact intact, attached to these suspects, during the commission of the crimes,” Quezada said.
The two men were in compliance with their regular, required check-ins with police every 30 days, Dunn said."

Jim Forsythe

Some people should not be let out with monitors ,such as sex offenders. But there may be a place for it, and we need to see if any in jail system would make sense to use this system on them.
Would it be cost affective to have more Judges or do we the right amount . More Judges may be he thing if we can get the people that are waiting to go before the court processed faster.
If we can lower the number a jail days, cost will go down.

George Croix

Do away with the 3 hot meals, and serve MRE's.
It's good enough for our military personnel in the field, it's good enough for a prisoner.
Big cost savings real fast.

Ultimately, the most cost effective way to cut jail costs is have fewer people going to jail. At some point, repeat offenders should stop getting chances to repeat.
Three feet of chain attached between an ankle and an iron ball, a grass whip in hand, and 20 miles of grass strewn roadsides, for a year or so, and the motivation to cease recidivism would be increased measureably.
If the ACLU complains, give them their own grass whips...[wink]
For the more deadly and serious repeat offenders, we should make the same 'choice' about them as is made for millions unable to speak for or defend themselves.
imho

Miss Priss

Gecroix - MREs are more expensive than regular food items. There are also strict measures to jails in the state of Texas. For all big talking our lovely Perry has done, he's sure let those jail vendors lobby the heck outta him. Gourmet meals for all!

JBG JBG

RAH is absolutely right about needing to be tougher on juvenile crime. I don't favor electrocuting them, but don't just slap them on their wrists and send them home to mama either,..... like I have witnessed so many times in H-town! Get this, one juvenile I knew from HOUSTON, just continued doing what he was doing time and time again, until one day, his age sneaked up on him! He forgot about his age qualifications separating juveniles from adults. When he came before the court, that court put him on one of those white buses with metal bars on them and sent his rear end to the BIG HOUSE! I tried to talk to many of them, some were saved, others ended up in prison and still a few in the graveyards.
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I saw one particular young man's mother, the one who got him out of everything he got in as a juvenile, stand and cry a bucket of tears, "Ohhhhh Mijo ....Ohhhh Mijo" as he was being led from the courtroom in handcuffs and leg chains on the way to the big house! This same juvenile once jumped his dad who tried to raise him, but mama always got in the way, and broke the dad's nose with a punch. When he was sent to TDC mama could not stop that, nor could she fix it! I've observed this more than a little! I blame the system for being soft on Juvenile Crime, just like RAH alluded to below! Hey, do something to encourage the kid to do better, even if his parents are totally inadequate in the parenting of their kids! The system should do more than just "TRICK" the juvenile into believing he/she can keep exemplifying negative behavior, and things will always turnout favorably! They won't!!!
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I've had it out with more than one Assistant DA who wanted to go soft on me where charging a Juvenile was concern!

Miss Priss

I was under the impression Trochesset put the 12 hour shifts back in the jail cutting everyone back to 3 days. Supposed to be wonderful - right? Was that supposed to help with coverage of employees and proactively deter issue with OT?

Reality of it is this that I've learned about the work force and 12 hour days for non- management employees - Twelve hour work days will kill employee morale more quickly than anything. Most people resort to 12 hour shifts if there is a staffing crisis and use it as a bandaid. Studies also show that over a period of time 12 hour shift workers are more susceptible to alcoholism and drug addiction. Look at someone leaving a 12 hour shift vs. 8 hours. The only thing 12 hour work days do is help take pressure off management - less stress to staff up, less shift change overs to deal with too.

The reason why people complain about cops usually relates back to the fact that most of them work too much and are sleep deprived and ill-tempered with a regular work schedule and then extra jobs.

Sure - you've got 4 days off working only 3 days a week..... Which soon turns into a part time mentality.

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