Demand for jail space and higher maintenance costs led Comal County commissioners Thursday to approve raising the cost to board offenders from three other Texas counties from $65 to $85 per day.
Since early March, the county has collected $2,859,155 to house offenders from Hays, Coryell and Bell counties after facilities there exceeded state occupancy limits — similar to what Comal County experienced in years prior to opening its new $72 million facility in July 2020.
“The cost of us boarding inmates in the jail has gone up, just like everything else has,” County Judge Sherman Krause said.
The county’s $65 per diem was about $20 more than it paid outside entities to board each of its offenders outside of the old 337-bed jail that’s now part of the sheriff’s office renovation. In all, Comal County spent nearly $10 million in per diem and transport costs before opening its 582-bed lockup.
“We were charging $65 (per day) because we thought that was more than fair at the time while we were in the old facility,” Sheriff Mark Reynolds said. “Right now, it costs $81 or $82 a day for us to board every prisoner in the jail. This will be a more accurate recouping of the money we spent before opening the new jail.”
Comal’s jail was 85% full on Thursday. Inside were 78 males and 11 females from Hays County and 30 males and 10 females from Bell County. The county also has a detention services agreement with the U.S. Justice Department to house offenders brought in by the U.S. Marshal’s Service Office at $100 per day, though the feds have yet to use the local lockup.
Boarding rates have varied between $40 and $55 for most of the past decade, Reynolds said, but rising costs and demand triggered the latest revisions, which could rise even higher. There’s a limit, as Reynolds said Comal is staying within the state’s 90% occupancy threshold for available beds within the jail.
“Because of the demand rates are rising all along the Interstate 35 corridor,” Reynolds said, adding some local counties have transported offenders to facilities as far south as the Rio Grande and north near the Red River.
Both Hays and Bell counties expanded jail facilities within the past decade, only to outgrow them in less than five years. Eight years ago, Hays had detention board agreements with nearby Caldwell, Guadalupe and Travis counties. Since 2016, when voters approved a $106 million bond to expand justice facilities, it has spent $17 million on outside board agreements.
Commissioners approved the county’s higher rate without comment on Thursday. Following the meeting, Krause confirmed that Comal officials are already considering expanding its new jail, which can add housing pods and kitchens to accommodate between 900 and 1,000 offenders.
With one wording change, commissioners approved revisions to several voting precincts. Precinct 202’s division between U.S. Congressional Districts 21 and 35 will see the portion north and west of Interstate 35 and Farm-to-Market Road 2252 become Precinct 205 (in House District 21), with the strip extending along the I-35 corridor as the new Precinct 202 (in House District 35).
Also Thursday, commissioners issued a proclamation recognizing inclusion of the Pape-Borchers Homestead in the National Register of Historic Places; accepted $700 donated to CCSO’s K-9 program; recognized the top three employee teams from the Walk Around Comal County Fall 2021 Challenge; and approved temporary closures of county roads from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday for the annual Canyon Lake Christmas Parade in Sattler.
Commissioners next meet at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 16 in Commissioners Courtroom, 100 Main Plaza in New Braunfels. The meeting will be live-streamed to the public; for Thursday’s video and next week’s agenda, visit www.co.comal.tx.us/agenda.htm.