NEW BRAUNFELS — Comal County Sheriff Bob Holder has said population growth across the county is driving the need for more jail space.
Recently, the state commission that inspects jails gave the county’s facility a clean bill of health and found no deficiencies. However, Holder, his jail administrator Major John Bell and the commission’s executive director said glowing marks do not discount the need for a new jail.
Adan Munoz, executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, said the inspection done Sept. 14-15 went through every aspect of the jail. The inspector, Fred St. Amant, made sure equipment was operational, records are properly kept and inmates have no complaints, Munoz said.
He said St. Amant found everything in order.
“What they maintain in that jail is according to standards,” Munoz said. “They can be in compliance, but they’re shipping people out.”
Bell said the inspection looks at fire alarm systems, smoke detectors and other equipment.
“If our fire alarm system’s working doesn’t mean we don’t need another facility or add-on or however this building plays out,” Bell said. “Where needing more jail space comes in is in our housing system.”
Holder said Comal sends some of its prisoners to a neighboring county because of space issues, and that puts a hardship on Comal County.
He said, for instance, if a Comal County inmate in a neighboring county’s facility needs medical attention, someone has to go from Comal County to that other facility, pick up the inmate, take him to the doctor and return him. It all costs the city in man hours, vehicle wear and tear and deputies’ time away from the job, Holder said.
Also, he said, more space is needed to classify and segregate prisoners appropriately.
“Plus, I have a 24-bed cellblock but some are low-risk (prisoners) and some are high risk,” he said. “You don’t put a murderer in there with a hot check writer.”
The current county jail opened in 1985 is old and outdated, Holder said. He said jails are built differently today and provide better structure.
Holder said the jail received a good inspection report because he and other county employees are making the most of the facility.
“We’re working with what we have,” he said. “We know as this county grows, and it continues to grow at a steady rate, you can sit back and wait until the roof blows off. Or you can say you know it’s going to happen.”
And he thinks more jail space will be needed, Holder said.
County commissioners recently hired Wiginton Hooker Jeffry Architects of Dallas to do a study on how best to increase jail space.