New Tom Green County Jail fully operational, over 400 inmates transported to new facility

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Over 400 inmates were transported to the new Tom Green County Jail on Tuesday, July 7, 2020.

“Tuesday morning was an early morning. Captain Allen had his guys ready to go at 4 o’clock. Really every stage of the move was planned and scripted. We began picking up phones at 4 a.m. and that just progressed from one step to the next through the entire process,” Hanna said.

Chief Deputy Nick Hanna and Jail Captain Todd Allen both say the move went smoothly, even being completed three hours ahead of schedule. The process of building the new facility, however, took much longer.

“This has been about a five-year project as far as the construction. The planning goes back beyond that. Sheriff Jones and Captain Allen have been involved from day one really since floor plans on up and we’ve had changes and unexpected obstacles. Everything from COVID to construction issues to weather but overall, I think it was a big challenge. The County has stepped up and met it and we’re gonna try to carry the ball from here and keep our inmates housed out here in the best environment for them, for their families, and for the community,” Hanna said.

The current trend in jail development, according to Hanna, is moving facilities outside of city limits. The new multi-million-dollar jail was built on land the county already owned. Meaning the County did save some money from not having to purchase land. Also, if expansions are needed, there is plenty of room on the land for new buildings. This facility will also help cut costs in the long run.

“Our old facility held 449 inmates, this one is capable of holding 550 when we’re fully staffed so increased manpower and increased availability of beds will be an asset to the county. If we need to house for other counties we can do so and conversely it will eliminate the need for us to house inmates outside of county which is a big expense,” Hanna said.

Housing inmates out of the county was a major issue for jail officials and county commissioners. According to Captain Allen, the average rate for housing an inmate in another facility is about 40 to 50 dollars a day.

“At one time we were spending, I’m gonna guess around 10,000 a month. It was very costly,” Allen said.

The capacity at the new Tom Green County Jail was also at the forefront of the planning process. So, do officials think it could reach full capacity?

“I think we will reach capacity here without a doubt,” Hanna said.

“I’ve seen up to 600 inmates,” Allen said.

When it comes to other costs, the pandemic kick-started some methods that county officials say they’ll keep.

“We’re implementing the use of Zoom and other technology for our court system. Hopefully that  will reduce the cost of transportation of our prisoners and make the judicial aspect for our inmates, and our jailers, and the court system faster and more efficient,” Hanna said.

Besides cutting spending another perk of the new facility is the improvement of conditions and mental health for inmates and jail staff.

“One thing I noticed during the move in was that the inmates seemed to like the environment better. There are higher ceilings and more sunlight and that promotes better overall mental health. We have a lot of opportunities within the jail for education, for counseling, for worship. We understand that jail is not about entertainment and we’re not here for entertainment, we’re here for rehabilitation. The aspects that this jail brings is really going to enhance life for the inmates and that makes life better for our staff here, our jailers, and our command staff. It’s a healthier environment for everyone that’s out here and we also hope that it’s gonna help with retention and hiring of new jailers,” Hanna said.

Captain Allen says the old jail had a linear design, making separation of inmates difficult and spaces very cramped. Plus, it created lots of blind spots an extreme safety hazard for jail staff.

Even though the new jail is functioning beyond the old capacity, there is still a need for more jailers.

“Capacity of staffing is 145. We were allotted 135 which puts our capacity at 485 inmates right now,” Allen said.

He says when it comes to being fully staffed, they’ll have to wait and see what the future budgets hold. But until then, he can’t help but reflect on the past.

“Having worked with this project so closely from day one, it’s like a father with a new son. I’ve been around this jail, downtown and here, since 1981. To see the old jail shut down was a little bittersweet but like I said, this is like a new child for me here,” Allen said.

Captain Allen’s father worked at the jail and so did his son before becoming a Tom Green County Sheriff’s Deputy. So, for the Captain, a new beginning is exciting, but he says he won’t forget how he got there.

“Forty years and three generations…there’s a lot of history down there for my family,” Allen said.

There are no plans set in stone on what will happen to the old jail at this time.



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