San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

January 19th, 2011
Sheriff implements early release program

by SEAN KIMMONS

New Sheriff Gary Cutler has instituted an early-release program for inmates who behave themselves, a move that has already allowed Hays County to stop housing inmates at considerable expense in neighboring Guadalupe County.

Implemented during his first month in office,  the sheriff’s system allows well-behaved inmates to receive a “good time” day for each day served. For example, if a prisoner has a one year sentence, he could be released in six months.

“It is something that is approved by the state legislature,” Chief Deputy Sheriff Jamie R. Page said of the program. The state’s Code of Criminal Procedures allows judges and sheriffs to shave time off sentences for good behavior.

As of Tuesday, 305 prisoners were being held at the 362-bed Hays County Jail, Page said, and the last inmates sent to Seguin have been brought back to Hays County.

Last fiscal year, the county spent more than $880,000 to house prisoners in Guadalupe County, Page said, a figure that does not include transportation and sheriff personnel time to transfer inmates.

Even shorter sentences are being offered to inmates who conduct manual labor during their stint at the jail. For each day an inmate spends doing manual labor, another “good time” day will be earned. Basically, a prisoner could be released with just one-third of his time served.

Manual labor time includes an array of odd jobs in or around the jail such as, washing cars, mopping floors, painting, laying tile, plumbing, sheet metal work and heavy equipment operator work, among other jobs.

“I think it’s good for them,” Page said. “It gets them outside into the fresh air.”

Prisoners are always supervised at the work sites, said Page, who hopes to develop another program to allow prisoners to work at municipal parks to save more taxpayer money.

“By summertime, we’ll be ready to take on other projects,” he said.

Cutler took office Nov. 15 to fill the last two years or so of the late Allen Bridge’s term. Bridges died in December 2008 before being sworn to a term that would have started Jan. 1, 2009.

The commissioners court appointed former Texas Ranger Tommy Ratliff to hold the office until the next general election, which was held in November this year.

Ratliff, along with former County Judge Elizabeth Sumter, aggressively advocated for construction of a new jail, often citing overcrowding and the resulting cost of the Guadalupe County contract as part of their reasoning.

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