Auxier: ‘When we moved in we were overcrowded’
The Kendall County jail is struggling to keep up with the influx of inmates, according to the latest jail report from Sheriff Al Auxier.
The sheriff shared his report with Kendall County commissioners during their meeting last week.
The facility opened in January, and Auxier said its size was planned using arrest data years before he took office. He said although the bond for the jail was approved in 2015, its size was determined using data from 2012 and 2013.
Auxier said architectural designs were approved in 2016 using original data gathered before the bond.
Since Auxier became sheriff the county’s population has grown tremendously, and the county arrest rate has almost doubled. However, he made it clear crime has not doubled, but rather that criminals are being held accountable.
“I’ve taken the handcuffs off the deputies to go out and do their jobs,” Auxier said.
According to a report from the sheriff, the 2012 incarceration rate in Kendall County was about .88 people per thousand with a population of 35,586. As of March 2019, the county incarceration rate was at 1.95 per thousand, and the population has grown by more than 10,000.
“When we moved in we were overcrowded,” Auxier said.
Auxier said although the county arrest rate is still below the state average of 2.14, everyone arrested in Kendall County comes to the Kendall County jail, whether he or she is picked up by Boerne police officers or county deputies.
The county jail has 102 beds, and U.S. Census Bureau data from July 2018 showed Kendall County with a population of about 45,000. Auxier said those numbers need to be compared to Gillespie and Bandera counties, with respective populations of about 26,000 and 23,000, that just built 96-bed facilities.
Kendall County has about the same size jail as counties half its size, Auxier said. But he added the facility could be expanded on the northwest side to include another 48 beds.
“We designed it and built it with the ability to have all the infrastructure in place,” the sheriff said.
Jail Administrator Robert Green said on average the jail probably books about five people per day, and it is currently on track to book about 1,500 people this year. He said when he started in 2015, he was booking about three per day.
Of the 102 beds available, 26 are reserved for women. And Auxier said although there are 102 available beds, the jail can only actually house 92 inmates because of a 10 percent jail vacancy standard the Texas Jail Commission recommends.
Green said men and women are required to be housed separately, and it’s not uncommon for the men’s dorm to be full while there is space in the women’s dorm.
According to statistics, in April the total county jail population was 77 men and 18 women. The overall daily average is 90 inmates with 17 to 18 women.
The jail also is able to hold individuals for less than 48 hours in one of three holding cells. However, men and women must be kept separate, and each holding cell can accommodate only eight people. So if there is one woman and 17 men brought in for holding, it’s a game of chess for the jail administrator to move people to make room.
Most of the time Green said the lone woman would be housed in general population to open that holding cell for more men.
The former jail facility was built in 1994 with 60 beds with nine spots for women. Green said on average men typically commit more crimes than women, but that number is changing.
“It’s drugs. That’s the big equalizer,” he said.
Based on projections in the sheriff’s report, the county will need anywhere from 224 to 288 jail beds by 2038. With a required staff-to-inmate ration of 1:48, the biggest ongoing expense would be personnel.
Because the jail is at capacity, the county has 21 inmates housed in Kerr County, which costs Kendall County $50 per day per inmate, Auxier said. That’s more than twice the number of inmates the county has budgeted for overflow.
Auxier said in the short term it’s actually cheaper to house inmates outside the county each day. But once fuel, transportation and medical expenses are taken into consideration, it’s more expensive in the long term.
The other major concerns with housing inmates outside the county are the risks that accompany transporting them.
“When you’re transporting inmates back and forth to Kerrville, safety is a huge concern for me,” Auxier said.
He said it costs roughly $370,000 per year to house 20 inmates outside the county, and that money is helping to subsidize the facility in Kerrville.
Auxier said it makes more financial sense to invest that money into a facility upgrade in Kendall County.