Presidio County One Step Closer to Reopening Jail

by Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

PRESIDIO COUNTY--Plans are in the works to take the closed sign off the 112-bed facility after being closed for almost two years.

All of the problems with the jail started in 2009, when parent company, Emerald, backed out of their agreement to take over.

Judge Paul Hunt says all they want to do is get the jail back up and running and start to get things back to normal in Presidio County.  Commissioners have already recommended a suitable candidate for jail administrator. But the entire process is something that needs to be done very carefully.

"At the time it was shut down for various reasons, there was light use of that jail. I think we've had a long enough time for everyone to be reminded of the value of it and we just have to reopen it carefully," Hunt said.

112 beds with no one in them isn't a good thing, especially for the Presidio County Jail. They've been closed since June of 2009. But according to Hunt, things are starting to look up, "Our process for opening it, at this point, involves the critical task that has to be accomplished, to hire a jail administrator. With that person, perfect the plan for turning the jail back on, which is no simple matter."

The jail relies heavily on income it gets from housing inmates from other counties and even federal authorities. Something their location provides very nicely for.

"The only port of entry in the Big Bend is in the south part of the county in Presidio. So, there's a lot of people that have to be processed by federal authorities and transported with U.S. Marshals Services and so forth. Our jail is strategically located for a lot of those operations," Hunt said.

Before the shutdown, the jail was losing close to $300,000 a year. With a newly sealed deal with the U.S. Marshals to use it, Hunt says they just want to be able to open their doors, even if it's not for a profit, "So that it opens to, at least, break even. It's a service that ought to pay for itself and not cost the taxpayers more money."

With these latest steps taken, that day could be just down the road.

Hunt adds, "The process that is before us, right now, I think we stand a pretty good chance of being able to have operations resumed within three months. But there's a lot of contingencies, so we still have to see our way through."