Nueces County Sheriff Jim Kaelin reports that 164 people were booking into the county jail over the Labor Day weekend, once again pushing the jail population to capacity.
Kaelin said it should be a reminder that some sort of expansion of the jail is long overdue.
However, not everyone agrees.
As of Wednesday, the jail is at 94-percent capacity, nearing the maximum of 1,068 inmates. Sheriff Kaelin has been pushing for jail expansion for some time with little success. Now, he's found at least one ally among county commissioners who says there is a way to do it without costing taxpayers money.
"We have quite a bit of space out there where we can expand dormitory type rooms for maintaining prisoners that are low-risk caliber, and that would free up space here at our main jail and allow us to bring in more federal prisoners," County Commissioner Mike Pusley said.
Those federal prisoners are key in the proposed plan. Pusley said the $60 per day federal inmates could pick up most of the tab for expansion.
The County already gets about $1 million a year from the federal government for housing inmates. What is being considered is expanding the existing Nueces County Jail Annex, creating an additional space for 150 inmates. A 50-person jail pod was opened last year and is providing some relief.
Pusley and Kaelin are working on a proposal to present to commissioners that would expand additional jail space at the same annex.
The sheriff has warned in the past that since no new additions have been made to the jail in 20 years, conditions will not improve. Architects are currently working on the proposed plans, which is why no actual dollar amount is known; but both Commissioner Pusley and Sheriff Kaelin said it will be far more affordable than building another jail from the ground up. However, they do admit that convincing the county judge as well as the other commissioners won't be easy.
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