County accepts contracts for more inmates, hires additional jail staff

by Alexandria Randolph

Burnet Bulletin

 

Burnet County officials and law enforcement are preparing for an influx of inmates from nearby counties in coming weeks.

Burnet County Judge James Oakley said commissioners court approved contracts with three Texas counties on Tuesday to house inmates in overflow conditions or special circumstances, and the jail has hired additional staff to handle the increase. Hayes, Somerville, and Taylor county jails have all contracted for the ability to send inmates to Burnet County Jail.

Prior to new staff, the jail was only allowed up to house 240 inmates based on its staffing. The total capacity of the jail is 587.

“It's a See-Saw effect,” Oakley said. “As we bring in new inmates, we hire more jailors.”

In late June, commissioners voted to unfreeze eight positions at the jail to prepare for the influx of new inmates.

County Auditor Karen Lester said that even with the cost of new employees, an increase in inmates through interlocal cooperation agreement with other counties would result in a profit for the Burnet County.

The numbers of new inmates is not concrete, Oakley said.

“The way the contract is, it's permissive. They don't have to house inmates with us,” he said. “We're also looking at a contract with Kerr County. They're looking to do springtime renovations and will need some place to house those inmates.”

The jail already takes all of Hamilton County's inmates.

Burnet County Chief Sheriff's Deputy Joe Canady said the jail may expect up to 100 new inmates from the out of county contracts.

“The minimum requirement by the state is one jailor to 44 inmates,” he said, but added that officials must consider booking and administration staff as well as the supervision ratio.

Canady would not give an exact number of how many jailors had been hired in recent weeks due to security concerns, but said the state required ratios were being met.

With the upcoming contract with Kerr county and no set numbers on inmates from existing out of county contracts, Canady said Burnet County Jail may need to hire more jailors in the future.

“We certainly will monitor and will adjust our staffing as needed to maintain the standards of safety of our inmates and our employees,” he said. “If we see the numbers beginning to rise, we'll prepare for it accordingly.”  

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