The Bexar County Jail is bursting at the seams with inmates, and Commissioners have begun a major effort to try to reduce that jail population, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
An overpopulation of inmates costs taxpayers more in housing costs, can lead to an increased number of prison management issues, disturbances, and escape attempts, and can also place detention officers at risk.
One contributing factor, Commissioners were told, may simply be demographic, as the Millennial population, which is now the largest age cohort in the country, is in the prime age for committing crimes.
"A few years ago, maybe ten or twelve, we were looking at all of those brand new elementary schools that we built," Commissioner Court was told. "Now, we're looking at our population aging into that cohort which is more likely to be experimenting with crime, and drugs, and things like that."
Statistics show that demographics are the biggest driver of crime. The 'urban wasteland' crime wave of the 1970s occurred wen the Baby Boomer generation was between the ages of 18 and 30, which is the age when as many as 70% of criminal acts are committed. Similarly for the gang and crack driven crime wave of the 1990s coincided with GenX entering that same age group.
Mike Lozito of Judicial Services told the Commissioners Court that another factor is the number of inmates who are held in the jail simply because they can't make bond. He says a judicial order out of Harris County is designed to cut down on that.
"You have to be able to look at each individual personally, to see what their financial status is," he said. "One person can make a $500 bond, and another can't. So they are doing away with the bond schedule and looking at a person's ability to pay."
But he says fully 42% of inmates in the Bexar County Jail are held without bond, which means they have committed serious crimes. Commissioners say the responsibility there is on the District Attorney's office and the District Courts to move those inmates to indictment and trial as quickly as possible.
But Lozito says a major contributing factor in jail overcrowding today is the fact that so many inmates are in jail due to drug issues, from opioids to heroin to artificial marijuana.
"If they get released and there is no treatment for them, they are just going to arrest them again and bring them back, because they are not taking care of their issues," Lozito said.