Gaines County Officials Hope to Save Their Jail

By: Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

GAINES COUNTY - Gaines County voters said no to a new jail, now officials are trying to figure out a way to keep the overcrowded prison from shutting it's doors altogether.

"It was somewhat of a disappointment because I know the situation that we're going to eventually end up in," Gaines County Sheriff Jon Key, said.

For Gaines County officials, the election didn't have an ideal ending: only 11% of voters marked the ballots. Now they're trying to figure out how to save the jail.

"It's an offcycle election for one, there was a lot of apathy," Gaines County Judge Tom Keyes, said. "I feel like we didn't do a good job of educating."

Prison officials say the jail is constantly overcrowded. Right now, they're housing more inmates in other counties than they can even fit inside their jail. Officials say that's a burden that falls on the taxpayers.

Right now they're shelling out $250,000 housing inmates in other counties. During the last survey, the Jail Standards Commission said they would delay upgrade requirements while the County considered building a new one. When they return for the next survey, time and money could run out before the jail can make the grade.

"They could close the jail," Judge Keyes said. "We're currently looking at trying to put together a plan to at least maintain status quo, keep as many jail beds available to us as we can. If they close us completely, our costs will double."

The Sheriff says even though the overcrowding has created headaches, it's not taking Deputies off the streets.

"One of the things the Commissioners Court did several years ago was add enough staff to take care of the transportation. We try to keep field deputies in the field throughout the County," Key said.

The County started working with an architect hoping to maintain the structure. They plan to put the jail back on the ballot in 2010.

"I think that we'll see a significant growth in the cost of getting the same project in a couple of years," Judge Keyes said.