Waco, TX — The McLennan County Jail downtown has been a headache for county officials.
After million-dollar repairs, the building still sits vacant and the outsourcing to a privately-run jail is becoming very expensive.
Many seem to think that the problem is not having an adequate jail system, while others think the current system is inefficient.
The topic was discussed in passionate Commisioner’s Court meeting on Tuesday.
Abel Reyna ran a campaign that was tough on violent criminals. The people of McLennan County responded in 2011 by electing him as their District Attorney.
“I ran on being tough on crime. I’m a citizen of McLennan County. I’m fed up with it," said Reyna.
Robert Callahan II is a local defense attorney.
Both Reyna and Callahan were invited to the Commissioners Court on Tuesday to discuss a clogged jail system that is straining the county’s finances.
“A lot of times defense attorneys can provide information that can tell the district attorney, ‘Maybe this case shouldn’t be prosecuted at all. Or maybe this isn’t a felony, but it’s a misdemeanor.' That’s critical for the system to work otherwise we have the backup we have now," said Callahan.
The county is being charged roughly $500,00 per month by the private-run jail while the downtown jail sits empty.
Callahan said overpopulation is the result of more inmates serving longer sentences.
The question is: Should a district attorney change elected policies to conform to an inherited, inadequate jail system?
The short answer from Reyna is no.
“I’m not going to apologize for the stance I’ve taken against individuals who are true criminals," said Reyna. "The year before I came, some 1,500 to 1,800 felony cases were flat rejected for prosecution and now we're standing firm on a lot of those situations now and dealing with them. You’re going ot see certain numbers come up. Our indictments are up and I’ve explained it to the court and they understand it.”
Reyna said, “I don’t think it’s anybody’s fault. It’s not the sheriff’s fault, it’s not the district judges fault, it’s not the court’s fault, it’s not my fault or the district attorney’s fault. We have a situation that needs to be addressed system-wide. And everyone can re-evaluate things including defense attorneys on how they handle their business to alleviate this problem. But it can be done."
Reyna said his department will come up with a list of ideas to alleviate the current jail woes.