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DeWitt jail could soon house federal prisoners

By Sonny Long
Oct. 27, 2010 at 5:27 a.m.


DEWITT COUNTY JAIL HISTORY

Originally built in 1877 at the same location where it stands today, the DeWitt County jail was replaced with a new building in 1917 and has since been expanded three times.

YEAR/NUMBER OF BEDS

1968/24

1991/52

2009/116

CUERO - Federal prisoners may soon be serving some of their time in Cuero.

DeWitt County Sheriff Jode Zavesky recently received approval from the county commissioners court to finalize a contract with the U.S. Marshals service to house federal prisoners in the DeWitt County Detention Center, a 161-bed unit that opened in the spring of 2009.

Ranging reporter Sonny Long visited the sheriff in his office to discuss what this means to his department and the county.

Q: Before construction began, the size of the jail was one area that had to be considered. How was that determination made?

A: What we had seen happen earlier in other counties, was they built their jails too small. They got the jail built, and the next thing you know they are out of space. Our citizens committee, in its discussions, decided we didn't want to do that. I discussed with them the possibility that if we built it big enough for our needs in the future then in the interim we might be able to house federal prisoners. That was one of the factors that helped them decide how big to build the jail.

Q: How long has this process taken?

A: Like anything federal, it's a lengthy process. Before construction even began, they looked at the plans to make sure they met their needs. We have been working on the contracts with the U.S. Marshals Service for about a year and a half.

Q: What does this mean for your department in dollars and cents?

A: We were expecting $50 a day per inmate, and they have offered us $53 a day. We are happy with that. It costs us on the average about $30 to $32 a day depending on meals. We'll make roughly $20 a day per federal inmate that we house. If we have to transport them, they will also pay $20 an hour for our jailers' time and mileage. We've been gearing up for it. We bought the additional uniforms out of last year's budget, bought the bedding. In a 12-month period, if we could keep that 48-bed pod full we would gross just under a million dollars. Thirty to 40 percent of that would be over our operating costs.

Q: When do you expect the first prisoners to arrive?

A: We expect to see the final contract later this week or the first of next week. We should see the first prisoners in 30 to 60 days. They want to start us slow with six, eight or 10, and we can house probably 15 right now without affecting our staffing. We can gradually move up to 48 inmates by the end of the year or the first of next year. We have a whole pod that we could use for that. That would require us hiring us four additional jailers.

Q: What kinds of prisoners will these be?

A: They are inmates who have been arraigned and are awaiting trial, those who have been to trial and been sentenced and waiting for a bed to open up at a federal prison, or those awaiting deportation. So it can be anything and everything the federal government deals with.

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