A shortage of juvenile detention beds throughout the state of Texas has Gonzales County in the same predicament as other counties — having to secure services with the few counties that have bed space available.
On Monday, Aug. 8, the Gonzales County Commissioners Court approved short-term detention contracts for juvenile offenders with six counties — San Patricio, Fort Bend, Hays, Guadalupe, Victoria and Grayson.
Gonzales County Judge Pat Davis said the costs are higher for housing juvenile inmates than adult offenders due to specific state requirements that must be met when taking care of younger offenders. Also, he said there are fewer counties in the state who accept and house other counties’ juvenile offenders.
“We’re having problems being able to facilitate the confinement of these individuals,” Davis said. “It’s going up in cost from $100 to $120 per day in some instances and we’ve had some pretty serious offenses from these juvenile offenders who basically need to be in placement and be off the streets.”
The cost to house an adult offender in another county can range from between $50 per day to $75 per day, based on contract rates. However, the cost to house a juvenile inmate can run between $100 per day to as much as $250 per day. It especially costs more to house juveniles who have already been tried and convicted of an offense as there are certain services that must be provided to those who have already been prosecuted.
Maggie Gaytan of the Gonzales County Juvenile Probation Department said the scramble to find available bed space has the county “trying to broaden our resources.”
“We’ve had contracts in the past with Guadalupe, with Fort Bend and Colorado County and with Victoria and Atascosa as well,” Gaytan said. “Some of these counties are no longer allowing out-of-county kiddos to be held in their facilities, so it’s getting really sparse for us to find detention space.
“We have to be picky and choosy as to who we send to detention about the severity of the offense, making sure that if it’s an aggravated assault with a deadly weapon or those type of things, we really try to find space for those kiddos. We’re turning more to trying to use our electronic monitoring on those offenses that are not as severe.”
Gaytan said she has been told by Guadalupe County they are raising their rate when the new fiscal year starts Sept. 1 to $250 per juvenile inmate per day. She noted that transportation can be hard on the county as well if they have to send an inmate somewhere else. For example, it is a two-hour drive one-way to Fort Bend County and a five to six hour drive one-way to Grayson County.
She said she tries to find out where beds are available before she goes on call.
“When I’m on call, I try to call all the counties on Friday to see if there are any beds available, so I know if I get a call at 2:30 in the morning on Saturday, I already know if there is a bed and I don’t have to waste that officer’s time,” Gaytan said.