Travis County commissioners voted unanimously to approve a request to decommission 192 beds at the Travis County Corrections Complex in Del Valle at a Feb. 11 meeting.
Commissioner Gerald Daugherty was off the dais for the vote.
“I am hopeful this is simply the first step in removing beds that do not serve our correctional system,” Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez told commissioners. “This proposal is a significant step in the right direction.”
Hernandez requested authority to decommission the beds in a Feb. 4 letter to the Commissioners Court.
The beds are located in four buildings and were last used in late 2018, according to Hernandez’s letter.
The buildings are not attached to the jail’s inmate mall, which “makes it more staff intensive to get inmates to clinic visits, programs, and visitation,” per the letter. Hernandez added that the buildings are costly to maintain and must meet minimum jail standards.
The demolition of the buildings was recommended in the county’s adult correctional system master plan, which was completed in 2016.
“In the last four years, the criminal justice system has worked hard to divert as many as possible from incarceration,” Hernandez wrote. “It is with thanks to this great effort that I would like to request authority to petition the Commission on Jail Standards to decommission these aging and under-utilized buildings.”
Misdemeanor jail bookings—the majority of bookings in Travis County—decreased 33% between FY 2014-15 and FY 2018-19, according to a Dec. 10 presentation made before the Commissioners Court. Felony jail bookings increased 2% during that same period.
Last year, Travis County commissioners voted unanimously to authorize county staff to begin negotiations on a $77.5 million contract to build a new women’s jail facility.
“There’s always room for improvement, but I think we’ve done good work,” Commissioner Brigid Shea said about the county’s diversion efforts, pointing to the need to decommission jail beds as proof of progress made.