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Hidalgo Co. Sheriff: Expand Jail, not payment to LCS Corrections

In Hidalgo County, once the public jail no longer has space for additional prisoners, the overflow is allocated to two private facilities operated by LCS Corrections. The county then pays LCS $45 per day per incarcerated person in their facilities. That costs the county a whopping $212,000 per month. That rate could increase by 20 percent next month, when LCS's contract with Hidalgo expires and the two parties begin renegotiations for a new contract. 

Jail dollar
Jail dollar

The executive vice president of LCS corrections, Richard Harbison, proposed a new daily rate of $55 per incarcerated person, claiming that "the cost of housing inmates is going up dramatically."

Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino, however, would rather expand the public jail than continue to funnel money to LCS:

We need something that we can move on right now, because it’s costing the people of this county a bunch of money every year,” he said. “There’s a solution to it. The question is: Do we really want to bite the bullet and do what we want to do?

The public jail expansion -- the addition of 768 beds -- would cost the county at least $60 million upfront, not including hiring more prison staff to supervise prisoners and day-to-day costs. Trevino claims that this expansion would pay itself off in 20 years, and is cheaper than paying $3 million per year to LCS. Having the US Marshals Service use the 300 excess beds in the public jail could offset the cost in 12 years. 

The county, namely County Judge Ramon Garcia, is not keen on Trevino's proposed expansion: 

"I’m very reluctant to get involved in any project that’s going to increase our tax rates...We’re trying to do what we can with the resources we have to work with. Presently we’re better off paying $2 million a year."

Garcia is heading an effort to build a new county courthouse, which is supposedly the reason he is unwilling to move forward with the public jail expansion. Trevino, who also recognizes the need for a new courthouse, claims that jail cost and overcrowding must be prioritized.

Contrary to both Garcia and Trevino, Astrid Dominguez, an advocacy coordinator with the Texas ACLU, opposes both the public jail expansion and a new contract with LCS. Rather, she suggests investigating why the jail is so full: two thirds of county jail prisoners haven't been convicted of a crime, and usually remain incarcerated because they can't afford post bail prior to their trials.