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$622K and counting: Inmates pending transfer to state prisons racking up big bill, sheriff says

As the state green-lights the reopening of bars, restaurants and salons, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar is calling on the state to pick up its prisoners.

SAN ANTONIO — The Texas Department of Criminal Justice put a freeze on picking up state prison-bound inmates from county jails last month in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus. Now, as businesses across the state re-open, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar is calling on the state to resume picking up its inmates.

"If it's so safe to open up tattoo parlors, or hair salons, or nail salons, or movie theaters or whatever that may be—if it's safe enough to open those, then open up TDC and start taking your inmates off my hands," Salazar said.

As of Thursday, more than 250 inmates were awaiting transfer to state facilities. While some of the tab can be covered through grants, Salazar said holding the inmates has cost taxpayers $622,000. And counting.

On Thursday, a spokesperson for TDCJ confirmed that the agency had not yet determined a date to resume picking up inmates.

Salazar said that, in addition to the inmates awaiting transfer to state facilities, the agency is also facing a number of other hurdles in securing the release of inmates. Salazar estimated "maybe 9% of our population should not be here right now. They should be elsewhere."

The estimation factors in 33 prisoners pending transfer to treatment facilities, along with 151 inmates who would normally qualify for release on a personal recognizance bond, but were made ineligible due to an order from Gov. Greg Abbott, barring the issuance of personal bonds for inmates previously charged with violent crimes. 

In addition to those groups, 98 inmates who were deemed incompetent to stand trial and are awaiting transfer to state hospitals are also being held at the jail.

"We’re getting jammed up. Which means it’s going to be a lot of trouble down the line," County Judge Nelson Wolff said during Tuesday's daily COVID-19 briefing. "If we could just get the state to meet its responsibilities, it would be a big step forward."

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