As Prisoner Numbers Decline, 1/3 of Texas Jail Cells Are Empty


Jones County, Tx., has an empty $35 million lockup to house 1,100 state convicts who never arrived, says the Austin American-Statesman. Such situations are increasingly common in Texas and across the U.S. because of declining crime rates, government budget cuts, and increased use of treatment programs that have deflated a 20-year boom in building jails and prisons.

The trend is drawing few cheers in Jones County and other places where taxes are going up to pay for the empty lockups. While counties mostly operate jails, which house pre-trial prisoners and those serving time for minor offenses, more than a dozen counties in Texas have for years housed state prison convicts — either in their county jails or in prison-like lockups built with the help of private firms. More than 30,000 of the state’s 93,000 county beds currently sit empty — both at county jails and at the ones built with county-private partnerships. “The problem is, there just aren’t enough prisoners to go around anymore,” said House Corrections Committee Chairman Jerry Madden.

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