Why is Smith county jail overcrowded? This is the question we have to answer before we can get to the how and what to do of solving the problem!
The commisssioners court in it’s wisdom has constantly, consistently, arrogantly and relentlessly avoided the issue of why jail overcrowding is a problem in Smith county, and the myriad of ways to deal with it before it gets to incarceration. This is important, because if you do not solve this piece of the puzzle, you will find any new jail overcrowded soon after it’s opening. It is important to understand the why of this issue, if we intend to get to the how of solving it. The following points are the why of Smith county jail overcrowding.
- The system is antediluvian. It moves at an incredibly slow pace, sometimes taking months for the simplest forms to move from the current jail, to the Court House!
- Bail is often slow, something that could have a quick fix, but instead, the people who should be processed quickly, are locked up, and clog the system.
- The jail is full of pretrial detainees. These are people awaiting trial, who could be processed much sooner with additional courts, which would require additional space. This problem will not be solved as long as the commissioners court insists that incarceration is preferable to swift justice!
- Child support offenders are still locked away for unreasonable amounts of time, unable to maintain jobs to support themselves and the children they are ordered to support. I understand that this is a complicated problem, but the answer is not incarceration, that makes no more sense than debtors prisons.
- Minor crimes, are treated as major offenses, and those who commit them, are locked away for periods of time that are outrageous, when they should be ticketed and given a summons to appear, instead of being arrested and held for outrageous amounts of time, further clogging the system, and overflowing the jail. Even the state has recognized the need for such measures, and the legislature has passed measures for this purpose, and the governor signed it into law. It is the obstinacies and arrogance of our county officials that keep it from working.
With all these facts, and they are facts. One has to ask if the commissioners court is more interested in alleviating jail overcrowding, or in forcing it’s will on the citizenry. Those seem to be the options, all other reasons for the courts obstinacy are far less flattering!