Monday, August 22, 2016

The U.S. Department of Justice announced this past week that it wants to end the federal government’s reliance on private prisons. The announcement responds to a recent federal audit that found a higher rate of safety and security problems at private prisons than those operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Of course, this decision could be overturned by congressional action or by a new administration.  Nevertheless, it is something that local law enforcement, including the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office, should follow closely and prepare for.

Private companies now operate 14 prisons across the country, housing about 22,000 federal inmates.  This means the federal government may have to build at least 10 additional federal prisons just to absorb the inmates currently in private prisons. There are other options, however, that could help ease the strain and cost. One option would be to change sentencing laws to reduce the time that nonviolent offenders are incarcerated. Another would be to house some federal prisoners in local jails that have adequate space and adequately trained personnel.

This is why, when elected Bastrop County Sheriff, I plan to increase the training of county jail staff, and to seek accreditation by the American Correctional Association. By increasing the training that corrections personnel receive to federal standards, we can avoid the problems found by the federal audit of private prisons. Also, we can house some federal inmates, when appropriate, and receive revenues for doing so.  Bastrop County has an excellent jail facility and exceptional staff.  Expanded training will improve their correctional management skills as well as their working conditions.