By: Eran Hami
KRIS 6 NEWS
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Nueces County Commissioners
Court has approved some much needed help for the county jail.
Subject to some language change, they passed two memorandum
of understandings (MOU) to transfer inmates to Aransas and Victoria counties.
The language that needs to be adjusted involves the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect
on overcrowding the jail.
Nueces County was recently deemed non-compliant by the Texas
Commission on Jail Standards. Nueces County Sheriff J.C. Hooper told
commissioners court during the state inspection, the jail was at 100 percent
"At one point it’s gotten to 103 percent," he
As of Wednesday, capacity is at 98 percent. County Judge
Barbara Canales said she got notice July 1 that the county has 30 days to
rectify the situation.
“Thank you for getting this accomplished, but it’s not in
our best interest to not think of other ideas and other plans," she said.
"This is just as they say the immediate need. And we have to have these in
place so that we can have options.”
The MOU with Aransas County will cost $60 for booking and
the first day up to six hours. Then it’s $74 a day per inmate. Nueces County
will transport inmates, but if Aransas County is needed it will cost $19 per
For Victoria County, Nueces County will pay $60 a day to
house an inmate. Again, Nueces County will transport inmates, but there will be
a cost if Victoria County is called upon.
In both cases, Nueces County would foot the bill for a
medical emergency for one of their transferred inmates that is outside basic
“The unofficial possibilities are increments of 20,"
said Hooper. "So, we could move 20 to Aransas County and 20 to Victoria
County. That would be 40 inmates that would be carefully selected and of course
it would have to be agreed upon that these are the type of inmates that they
would accept. And it would be an open ended deal. We could end it in a month if
something magical were to happen here in Nueces County to bring our numbers
Hooper said inmates are assessed on several factors like the
crime they’re accused of, past convictions, likeliness to be violent or a
victim in jail, medical needs and gang affiliation.
For the county to house 40 inmates in these counties it will
cost roughly $80,000 a month.
Hooper has been adamant the issue stems from the slow
progress of criminal trials.
“And the most significant thing to be done is for the courts
to start moving again, hearing some cases," said the sheriff. "When
they start hearing some cases whether it’s in front of a judge or in front of a
jury, other inmates will plea. And we’ve known this to be true. We’ve had—we’ve
called jury pools here the last couple of weeks and all of a sudden the inmate
will enter into an agreement, will make a plea deal knowing that the jury has
“And COVID-19 is definitely the culprit, but make no mistake
we’ve been having high population in the summer months on a historic basis, for
different reasons," Canales said. "This particular high population
during these summer months and as you said sheriff, over the last six months,
is directly a result of the backlog of the court.”
This is an issue across Texas. According to the Texas
Commission on Jail Standards, as of June 1 almost 100 Texas counties are
housing at least one inmate outside their county. Notably, Hidalgo County is
housing nearly 400 inmates elsewhere.
Hooper said there 160 more inmates awaiting felony trial
than there were last year at this time.
He added a majority of inmates are being held for alleged
violent crimes. Ninety of them are suspected of murder with 24 people accused
of murder already having bonded out. Hooper said the district attorney dropping
charges or bonding out some accused of violence isn’t an option.
Canales said she will meet with judges to see what steps can
be taken to create a long term plan. One that isn’t so costly for the county.
There is no timetable on when inmates might start to be