Wichita County Officials Considering New Jail

Wichita County officials are moving forward with making improvements to the jail.

In June 2015, the county jail received a failing grade on its jail inspection report done by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.  Since then, the county commissioners, along with the Sheriff's Office have been working to fix those problems.

Wichita County Sheriff David Duke said part of the problem was how few maintenance crews members they have.

"We only have, you know, an average of four maintenance guys for the county, for the entire county operations," Sheriff Duke said.

As he pointed out, because of this situation something will always get neglected.  However, county commissioners recently approved to hire two new crew members.  Their only job will be to work on the county jail.  However, the problems with the jail need to be fixed as soon as possible, which will take more than two people.

"I want to say another month, 30 days, but I'm a realist and it's probably going to be 45 more days," he said, "It's a lot bigger than we originally thought it was going to be."

He hopes to have it done by that point because they are expecting officials to come out and do another inspection.  Sheriff Duke said they will probably be there in a month, but they are keeping in touch with the,.

"We're updating them weekly pretty much, on what we're doing," he said, "They know we're working on it."

If the county jail gets another failing grade, actions will be taken.  Sheriff Duke explained some of the inmates could be removed from a certain part of the jail.  Then they would have to be moved to other counties to be housed, which costs money.  This is why county commissioners are considering other options.

"Now we're going another direction," Sheriff Duke said, "The judge wants to go across the street to build a criminal court building with a jail and the sheriff's office and everything."

The property is formally known as the Patterson Car Dealership lot.  Officials said it will be a long time because the facility was completed. 
“If that went through, say it went through tomorrow, and by the time they do the plans, you’re still talking two years until ground was broken,” Sheriff Duke said.
First, the new facility will have to be approved by voters.  As for when it will be on the ballot, that has not been decided.
If the facility does get approved by residents, there are some options when it comes to what would happen to the jail annex.
“If that were to happen that way and the new jails built and we move all the inmates in there, females, males, everybody from the annex, everybody under one roof, which is the way it should have always been that facility out there will be closed,” he said.
However, officials could renovate the building for a different use.  This could include housing federal prisoners, which would bring in revenue to the county.  They could also use it to detain illegal immigrants, or it could just be used for office space.
The new facility would provide more space for the county jail, as well as an infirmity, a bigger kitchen, and a better booking area.
“750 beds alone, not including booking,” Sheriff Duke said, “If you include booking that's another 50 to 70 beds, that should take care of the jail problem in Wichita County for another 50-60 years at least.”
County commissioners will be meeting to talk about their plans moving forward with the new facility, but that’s just the next step.
Alexandra McClung, Newschannel 6