Bexar County Commissioners have voted to expel federal prisoners, including illegal immigrants, from the old county jail downtown, which is now operated by the private Geo Group, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
The old county jail, which was built in the 1940s, has been operated by private companies as a holding center for parole violators, federal prisoners awaiting hearings in local federal courts, and people arrested for violating immigration laws, since the new jail west of downtown opened in the early 1990s.
The building is set to be demolished this year to make way for UTSA's major downtown expansion, and there had been a plan in the works to move federal and immigration prisoners to the new Jail Annex.
But Sheriff Javier Salazar says that is no longer feasible to do an overpopulation of local inmates in his detention facilities."Jail population has been upwards of 4100 and up to 4200 this year, with spikes of up to 4700 at times," Salazar said.
He pointed out that the idea behind leasing jail space to the feds was to make money for the county, but that would be counter productive today, because he would have to then rent space elsewhere for the county's own prisoners."If this were to happen, and Geo would take over half of that annex building,
I would have to then house out," he said. "That would then cost Bexar County taxpayers eight to ten million dollars, by some estimates, up to 12 million dollars.
County Judge Nelson Wolff said it didn't help that the decision on the fate of federal inmates comes during the government shutdown.
"We are not going to be paid for the prisoners who are being held there due to the government shutdown," Wolff said
.The process will begin immediately to wind down the Geo operations in the old county jail and prepare it for demolition. The fate of the inmates who are currently being held there has not been determined.