Dallas County may have to stop admitting inmates to its crowded and understaffed jail and pay millions of dollars to send inmates to other counties if it can’t get the inmate population under control, the Dallas Morning News reports. The county has three months to meet the state’s minimum staffing requirement of one guard per 48 inmates – something it has consistently been unable to do. The county could have to pay to transport and house its prisoners in other jails across the state, at an annual cost of up to $18 million. That would result in “mayhem,” Chief Public Defender Brad Lollar said. Defense attorneys may not have time to visit clients in distant jails, and inmates would have to be bused back and forth to hearings.
The Texas Commission on Jail Standards staff had been prepared to recommend a remedial order last Friday to close the jail but reconsidered after hearing about improvements in the works. County officials are in emergency mode, having given themselves a 30-day deadline to reduce the jail’s population of more than 7,000 by 1,000 inmates, which they said will bring them in compliance. The Dallas County Jail system – the seventh largest in the nation – has failed state inspections three years in a row, primarily because of inadequate staffing.