Overcrowding at Wichita County Jail - Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

Overcrowding at Wichita County Jail

Wichita County Jail officials aren't just facing failed state requirements, they are also dealing with overcrowding issues.

“It goes right back, we don't have enough room, period,” Wichita County Sheriff David Duke said.

The jail has 625 beds, but 25 of those are in the booking area.  On top of that, certain cell blocks are closed off because of repairs.  So, they are left with around 550 beds.

“We're almost to the point where we only have a couple beds left,” he said, “As of today we only had about two or three beds left in housing.”

Part of the reason overcrowding is an issue is simply the number of inmates coming in every day.  On average, Sheriff Duke said they get 30 inmates a day and weekends are even busier.

“The bottom line of it is, we need about another 100 to 150 beds, additional bed spaces for the county jail,” he said.

The biggest problem is where to put all of the inmates, since they all can't be put in the same area due to their classification.  Sheriff Duke explained everyone is classified by their criminal history for what they have been arrested or convicted for before they go to the jail.

“If you come to jail for traffic tickets, you've never been here before, we're not going to put you in jail with the guys in there for murder, aggravated assault, aggravated robberies, or the guys that are child molesters, or things like that,” he said.

Even though overcrowding is an issue for the jail, officials are looking at solutions.  Sheriff Duke said the county judge is wanting to build a new facility downtown. 

“It's just been an ongoing process,” he said, “We need a newer jail facility.  We need something that is not only safe and secure, but additional housing of inmates because Wichita County has grown.”

Building a new facility would be a long term solution.  In the short term, there is a possibility they would have to transfer inmates to other county jails.

“We have contracts with six other counties in North Texas to build housing,” he said.

Officials said it costs around $50 a day for an inmate to stay at another jail  While it might not seem expensive, it can add up very quickly depending on how many inmates have to be transferred and how long their stay is.

“We don't know if we're going to have to do that just yet, but if the population continues to rise, on this hand we're already here, we're going to have to move some of these inmates out,” Sheriff Duke said.

He said they would send the inmates to a certain facility depending on how many they needed to transfer.  There are six counties that have both large facilities and smaller facilities, so it will just depend.

“Overall, we're going to have to do something with the newer facility,” Sheriff Duke said, “It's coming and it's been probably 25 years, 20 years ago we should have already taken care of this instead of put a temporary fix on it.”

The last time the jail had overcrowding issues was back in 2011.  Officials said it happened because of repairs that needed to be done, so it is very similar to this situation.  Back then, inmates were transferred to other jails.  Officials did not know how much money was spent doing it.

Alexandra McClung, Newschannel 6
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