Dallas County's jail population has hit an all-time low. That means more spacious jail tanks and fewer bologna sandwiches. If the trend continues, it could add up to big savings for taxpayers, reports the Dallas Morning News. The jail, the nation’s seventh-largest, is the biggest expense item in the Dallas County budget, at $107.7 million annually. For the past two years, the average jail population each month has hovered around 6,100. Last month, it was 5,618. That could be a reflection of larger trends, said Margaret Noonan of the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. She said Texas' entire jail population has been in decline since 2010.
It also could be a payoff for the county's efforts. Dallas County officials have been meeting regularly to discuss jail population since the state flagged the ail for holding many nonviolent offenders. Each inmate costs the county $63.11 a day. State law requires one staff member for every 48 inmates. But inmates must be grouped by risk level. Seventeen-year-olds are segregated under a federal law intended to prevent prison rape. So an empty bed here and there won't always mean fewer officers are needed. The current drop, however, has been large enough to allow the closure of half of one floor and six pods, large rooms with bunk beds, a common area and a direct supervisor. Keeping those areas vacant would save $3.2 million a year.