Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Don't think pink

Tents aren't the answer.

Neither is pink underwear

Swifter justice is.

No support for Kerr jail using tents — or issuing embarrassing skivvies
Zeke MacCormack - Express-News

KERRVILLE — Ruling out pink underwear as a punitive measure and tents to reduce inmate crowding, county leaders said Monday that expediting the court processing of detainees is the best strategy to avoid a costly expansion of the Kerr County Jail.

Adan Munoz Jr., executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, called the erection of tents to house inmates — as some have suggested — a short-term solution that's likely to generate litigation but little in the way of long-term savings.

Inmates “gripe about everything,” he told Kerr County commissioners Monday. “Unfortunately, if you don't treat them a certain way, they have a right to sue you.”

Kerr County Judge Pat Tinley asked Munoz to address local taxpayer gripes that inmates are pampered, and calls for the county to emulate the tactics of Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Ariz., sometimes called “America's Toughest Sheriff” for his punitive handling of detainees.

“We get blasted with both barrels of that, very frequently,” Tinley told Munoz.

Munoz said Texas laws are more restrictive than those governing Arpaio, whose get-tough approach has included keeping inmates in tents, issuing them pink underwear, prohibiting adult magazines in the jail and restricting jail television to educational programs.

Munoz suggested that the county hire a consultant to study whether court clerks, judges and prosecutors could help shorten the time that suspects spend behind bars before being acquitted or convicted and sent to prison.

Sheriff Rusty Hierholzer agreed, saying that moving inmates through the system more quickly was far preferable to spending upwards of $60,000 per bed to expand the 192-bed jail.
Hierholzer noted that the average daily jail population climbed to 163 this year from 150 last year, while total arrests in the county grew slightly in the same period, to 3,361 from 3,343.

“That means they're spending a lot more time in jail, because the number of arrests has not gone up but by 18,” he said. “The other issue is that I have people in this jail who have sat here 500 days or more waiting to go to trial. Our court system has got to find a way to get them into court sooner.”

If jail tents were erected, Munoz said, they could be used only for three years, and they would have to meet the same standards as brick-and-mortar jails on issues such as lighting and temperature control.

And if the county jail were expanded beyond 200 beds, Munoz said, an in-house infirmary would have to be opened for the inmates.

Although he said the county could issue inmates pink underwear, Hierholzer responded, “We don't issue underwear. They bring it themselves.”