EXCLUSIVE: Border Surge, COVID-19 Creates Capacity Issue for Texas County Jails

Texas county jail inmate - AP Photo / Morry Gash
AP File Photo / Morry Gash

A law enforcement source within the Texas Department of Public Safety informed Breitbart Texas about capacity issues at county jails in the southwest Texas border region. The source says it is increasingly more difficult to find space for wanted criminals and others they encounter along the border.

A Texas DPS official spoke with Breitbart Texas on condition of anonymity about the increasing jail overcrowding issue being faced by Texas border sheriffs due to the border surge and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Breitbart Texas then spoke with several county sheriffs who addressed the capacity issues they are facing. Increases in human trafficking crimes resulting from the surge of migrants along the southwest border is only one part of the problem.

Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez of Val Verde County said he is confronted daily with capacity-related issues.

“Our facility deals with a population at it’s lowest, from 68 inmates to a high of 170 inmates,” Sheriff Martinez said. “If we have inmates that have mental health issues, gang affiliations, or high female inmate populations, that complicates the situation and reduces our capacity.”

Martinez says the jail had to turn away some non-violent misdemeanor offenders in order to deal with overcrowding. The cause he says is not only the increase in activity along the border because of immigration, but the perfect storm of that coupled with the impact COVID-19 has on other agencies within the state.

“The court system has slowed down considerably due to COVID-19,” Martinez explained. “That means our jail population is impacted as a result.”

“If cases can’t be heard, it results in higher detention rates,” the sherif continued. “The Texas Department of Criminal Justice also slowed their transfers of inmates to Texas state prisons — that complicates the situation as well.”

Sheriff Martinez says he is committed to making sure his staff adjudicates each request to admit an inmate to his facility and that no request to house a violent, dangerous criminal is turned down.

“I will not release anyone that is accused of domestic violence or any other offender that may pose a risk to my community,” he stated. “We will find space.”

There may be a light at the end of the tunnel according to the sheriff who says the COVID-19 issues are now being addressed by the courts and the state prison system in Texas. “I look forward to the significant movement of inmates within the next several weeks,” Martinez said.

In Eagle Pass, Texas, Chief Deputy Roberto De Leon of Maverick County Sheriff’s Office says his deputies are dealing with the same issues as Sheriff Martinez is seeing in Del Rio, Texas.  “With more troopers on the highways due to Operation Lone Star, we are getting more requests for jail space because of the increased enforcement on our roadways.”.

De Leon also blames the jail capacity issue on the impact COVID-19 placed on the court system. In Maverick County, De Leon says his staff is prioritizing their acceptance of offenders accused of felony offenses and those who are facing misdemeanor charges involving violence or who pose a danger to the community.

Similar issues are being faced in Brackettville, Texas at the Kinney County Jail and in Carrizo Springs, at the Dimmit County Jail. Sheriff Marion Boyd told Breitbart Texas his jail staff is meeting the challenges as well.

Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol.  Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas, Sector. Follow him on Twitter @RandyClarkBBTX.



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