Wichita County commissioners discuss jail population

Local News

The population at the Wichita County jail continues to rise and that’s why county leaders are thankful ground will be broken on the new justice center in December or January.

Meanwhile, county leaders continue working to gradually reduce the population at the Sprague Annex.

While county leaders look to bring the number of inmates down, they are also talking about what is causing the increase and they say a recent proposal from the Texas governor could help.

Governor Greg Abbott is looking to reform the state’s bail system, calling for the inclusion of risk assessment information to inform judges’ pretrial release decisions.

Something Wichita County Judge Woody Gossom says the county is looking into while figuring out how to reduce the jail population.

“I’ve already met with the office of court administration trying to look at some grant possibilities.” Judge Gossom said.  “We’ve set aside some funding to fund that office to look at pretrial release to look at even posted adjudication people who cannot pay a fine because they are indigent but to put them in a work program, they have to do community service to work off their fine.” 

The Wichita County jail population has recently increased from 475 to a little more than 500, Judge Gossom says this is also due to a recent decrease in the number of cases going through the courts.

“We had a small slow down in the courts while the district attorney’s office was getting ready for the Kody Lott trial which was a very serious effort on their part. So their efforts were concentrated on that. We should see that picking up.” Gossom said.

Crowding in our area jails isn’t new in Texoma, that’s why county commissioners are looking into how other counties deal with this issue.

“Generally speaking by law most people are eligible for personal recognizance bond and so we were looking at how many of those are released on PR bond and how many come back to show up for court,”  Gossom said. “And its about 50/50 on those that do or don’t that’s not particularly off the numbers on those that are actually out on bond and the bond companies trying to get them there. They don’t feel a great deal of responsibility to show up for court.”

But county leaders say the Law Enforcement Center that will be built by a bond approved by taxpayers will help out, once construction starts.

“It has been a tougher project because of the inflation due to the changes in tariff amounts, so steel prices were significantly affected by that so we looked at alternatives. Unfortunately, jails require a great deal of steel.” Gossom said. 

The $70 million jail is expected to house 658 beds, with an option for that number to grow. The new jail will be located on 20 acres of land near the Sprague Annex.

County leaders hope the facility will be ready to house inmates by March of 2020.

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