Crunching the Numbers on a New Jail - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

10/30/02

Crunching the Numbers on a New Jail

The new proposed Lubbock County Jail has already been endorsed by all three Lubbock area Chambers of Commerce. However, some Lubbock County taxpayers are still not as sure. We all know it will cost $83-million to build the new jail, but will operating costs increase that number? Here is a breakdown of those numbers.

Months of number crunching, and here is where we are. First the need. The current jail's capacity is 795 beds. The analysis shows we need 1,000. Because we don't have enough room now, Lubbock County is housing overflow inmates in surrounding counties, costing us $3.5-million a year.

The solution? Expanding the current jail or building a new one. County commissioners have agreed building a new one is more efficient and cost effective. "With a new design, with a direct supervision jail, you can actually do more with less," says Commissioner Kenny Maines.

So here is the design an architectural firm has come up with. Pods on land outside the city limits with lots of room to expand. It will hold 1,224 inmates when finished, expandable with no additional construction to 1,584. The analysis shows we will need about 1,300 beds by the year 2021.

The current jail costs $9.7-million to operate today. According to the study, the new jail will cost roughly the same amount to operate when it opens about two years from now factoring in inflation. If the analysis is correct and we are using 1300 beds by 2021, the new jail will cost approximately $14.9-million to operate in 20 years.

If you break those numbers down even further into price per bed, the current jail costs $33.66 a day per bed. The new jail will cost $33.42 per bed in 20 years. County commissioners say a better design means more cost efficient. "So in 20 years, we're still looking at approximately the same cost per bed to operate the jail," says Maines.

But some disagree that a new jail is the best option. Mikel Ward with a taxpayers action network says there are better solutions to overcrowding yet to be explored. "I think there are other solutions that are not quite so Draconian and don't involve stepping out and doing this all in one step," says Ward.

And here is another number. The new jail will cost taxpayers about $4.00 per month for homeowners in a $70,000 house. That comes out to $48 a year in extra taxes.

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