Weatherford Democrat

November 28, 2013

New jail facility under discussion

Proposed addition would house trusted jail inmates to free up space to take in more federal prisoners


Weatherford Democrat

— By JUDY SHERIDAN



Community Education Centers, the company Parker County contracts with to manage the Parker County Jail, has offered to build a work-release low- security jail facility for the county free of charge.

The facility, to be built just off the parking lot about 50 yards from the current jail, would house prisoners with outdoor trusty status — those who help in the four precincts, do street maintenance and work at the animal shelter.

“They are entering society and don’t need the maximum security of the main building,” Facility Warden Ron King said.

The new building would free up space in the main jail for more prisoners of the U.S. Marshals Service, King said, which pays the county $10.96 per day per prisoner. CEC is paid $51.96 per day for each federal prisoner housed.

In addition, it would allow the county to delay constructing “more expensive beds” — requiring a slab, reinforced walls, electronics and hardened cells — for two or three years.

Plans call for a 3,600-square-foot metal or pre-fabricated building, King said, big enough to house 48 inmates and one round-the-clock supervisor.

“It would be an open-door format,” King said, “with 24 bunk beds and six-person to eight-person tables for meals and board games.” 

King said he met Tuesday with RamTech, which builds commercial-grade modular buildings, and expects to have a cost estimate by the first week in December.

“Once I get an estimate, I’ll go to see my boss in New Jersey,” he said.

The buildings are constructed in Mansfield, King said, but the site must be graded and utilities run.

“I think it will take about three months,” he said.

King hopes to gain approval from Parker County commissioners late next month and finish construction by the first day of spring.

CEC now employs 95 full-time employees and 20 part-time employees at the jail, King said, compared to the 36 full-time employees who started work in October of 2007, when the company first came on board.

“We went from Oct. 1, 2007, to mid-2009 with just county inmates,” he said. “In 2009, we started housing the U.S. Marshals’ inmates.”

King said the prisoners are “extra” ones from the Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Worth, which is full.

“They like us because we’re clean, sanitary and have good medical,” he said.

“We also have a good transport team. Every day we transport prisoners to the federal court in Fort Worth and do all the medical runs.”

Last year, the average number of federal prisoners housed per day was 85, King said, adding this year it’s averaging about 110 per day.

“It’s one-in-four,” King said, “110 federal prisoners and 315 county inmates.”  

CEC is willing to construct the building at no cost because it’s good business, he said, the county pays $44.90 per day per county inmate.

In commissioners’ court Monday, Judge Mark Riley said the county is shipping “some of our low folks” to other facilities to make room for federal inmates, who pay the bills.

“It still does not cost us, it’s still a net dollar amount at the end of the day for the sheriff’s budget,” he said, “but they would like not to have to deal with that issue.

“CEC has offered to build at no cost to the county a work-release low-security jailhouse to keep everybody here.”

Riley said the sheriff is in favor of the proposal, and there is no opposition from the county attorney or auditor.

“It’s a win-win,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Craig Peacock said. “What they’re building is going to be minimum security. It will make it a lot simpler to pick trustees up for work in the mornings.”