By Alicia Neaves
REAGAN COUNTY - The Reagan County Jail was closed in 2012 due to budget cuts. Since then, deputies are forced to drive criminals to nearby counties to lock them up. With those facilities running out of room, that leaves deputies putting down the handcuffs and issuing citations instead for low-level crimes.
"There's a way around it. Obviously, we would rather not be that way, but we deal with it," said Reagan County Sheriff, Jeff Garner.
When Reagan County deputies are ready to make an arrest, the first thing they do is start making calls. With the help of dispatchers, they look for a jail close by with available bed space.
"Rankin of course is our first choice. We call them. If they're full, then we have the option for Crane County, Howard County or Schleicher County and we just go down the list," said Garner.
When there's no space available, a citation is handed over instead.
"Basically summoning them to county court," Garner said.
This is for Class B Misdemeanors. For example, driving with an expired license with previous convictions, or possession of two ounces or less of marijuana.
"If they're used to arresting on those offenses, then there comes a time when we don't have bed space and we have to do something different, it makes them feel a little inconsistent with what they're doing. I think it's more of a moral issue than it is a criminal issue," Garner said.
If there's a lack of bed space for a more serious criminal, it means a longer road trip for deputies.
"I know Snyder has bed space available. I know there are some jails up near Lubbock, some other county jails, that have told me if the need raised, we can take them there," Garner said.
Arrest numbers are still steady for the county. Garner says they are averaging 15 to 20 arrests per month, and made over 800 traffic stops in April.