Female inmates in Travis County correctional facilities still lack appropriate housing

Women in the jail system are currently housed at the Travis County Correctional Complex in Del Valle, scattered across four different buildings, as well as in the the Travis County Jail downtown.

Women in the jail system are currently housed at the Travis County Correctional Complex in Del Valle, scattered across four different buildings, as well as in the the Travis County Jail downtown.

Travis County initiated a review of facilities within the county’s correctional system four years ago. Appropriate female inmate housing is still a priority need, Sheriff Sally Hernandez said.

“We in Travis County should be the frontrunners on model female facilities,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez, alongside a committee appointed in March to refine the vision for a new women’s correctional facility, briefed county commissioners on their progress Dec. 11.

Female inmates are currently scattered across four buildings at the Travis County Correctional Complex in Del Valle and the Travis County Jail downtown.

“We’re talking about buildings that were built originally for men,” Hernandez said. “It’s not efficient. It’s not safe for the women inmates. It’s time to make a change.”

The conversation about a new women’s correctional facility has been ongoing in Travis County for years. Overall goals for a separate women's facility include safer, more humane living conditions that can lead to quicker and more successful re-entry to the community, the committee members said in their presentation.

TIMELINE: Reforming female inmate housing in Travis County’s correctional facilities

Spring 2014: Travis County contracts Carter Goble Lee Associates, Broaddus Planning and other consultants to review the adult housing facilities and operations within the county’s correctional system.

Fall 2014: Based on consultant recommendations, county commissioners adopt a $620 million plan to overhaul county correctional facilities. Two efforts are prioritized: building new, more adequate housing for female inmates—to the tune of $97 million—and replacing the jail facility downtown.

Spring 2018: As county officials discuss plans for the women’s facility, community members and advocates urge decision makers to spend money on diversion programs and mental health services rather than improving and expanding correctional facilities.

Spring 2018: Commissioners weigh options for financing $6.2 million in design and preconstruction of the women’s facility. County budget staff recommended certificates of obligation—long-term debt that does not need voter approval—for the first installment of the $97 million facility.

March 2018: After receiving community feedback, commissioners, with a 3-1 vote, delay the women’s facility design and preconstruction by a year.

March 2018: Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez appoints a six-member advisory committee to refine the vision for the women’s correctional facility.

March-December 2018: The advisory committee leads focus groups with women incarcerated in the county jail and complete research on best practices for minimizing harm to and achieving better outcomes for women inmates.

On the horizon: Commissioners are expected to vote on whether to issue certificates of obligation for a women's facility in March 2019.
By Taylor Jackson Buchanan
Taylor Buchanan joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2018 after completing a master of journalism degree from the University of Texas. She worked as the senior reporter for Community Impact's Southwest Austin edition and is now the editor for the company's flagship Round Rock/Pflugerville/Hutto edition.


MOST RECENT

Austin transportation officials said April 15 the range of corridor construction program projects initiated through the city's 2016 Mobility Bond remain on track for completion by late 2024. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Several Austin corridor mobility projects moving forward in 2021, program on track for 2024 completion

Transportation officials said some corridor program improvements previously planned along Guadalupe Street and East Riverside Drive are being reduced ahead of Project Connect expansions.

The program, which began this week in San Marcos, gives Amazon and Whole Foods employees and contractors direct access to COVID-19 vaccinations. (Courtesy Amazon)
Amazon begins rollout of statewide vaccination clinics for employees

The program, which began this week in San Marcos, gives Amazon and Whole Foods employees and contractors direct access to COVID-19 vaccinations.

Austin FC supporters celebrate the official announcement of the team in January 2019. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)
How, where to watch historic first Austin FC match April 17

Check out this list of breweries, pubs and restaurants around Central Texas that are hosting watch parties for April 17's inaugural Austin FC game.

Z'Tejas' chorizo dumplings are served on the Arboretum location's porch. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Z'Tejas to open in Avery Ranch; butcher, deli to open in Dripping Springs and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

Maj. Vito Errico, left, and Maj. Jason Zuniga are co-directors of Army Futures Command's Software Factory, for which the first cohort of soldiers started in January. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
From a rifle to a keyboard: Army Futures Command opens Software Factory at downtown ACC campus

Twenty-five soldiers started in January as part of the Software Factory's first cohort. Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will be at the Rio Grande campus for a ribbon-cutting April 15.

Mobile Loaves & Fishes leaders and Community First Village residents unveiled the planned third and fourth phases of the Austin development for the formerly homeless April 14. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin's Community First Village for the formerly homeless announces 127-acre, 1,400-home expansion

Officials with the community, which is intended for residents who have experienced chronic homelessness, said that two new expansion phases are expected to begin development in 2022.

Photo of a sign that says "Travis County"
Travis County establishes new emergency rental assistance program for 2021

The program will provide $10.7 million in aid to county residents struggling to pay rent due to the pandemic.

Plank Seafood Provisions opened inside The Domain in late March. (Courtesy Richard Casteel)
Seafood spot opens in The Domain; All Star Liquor now serving Georgetown and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

Federal funding is set aside for public schools to address effects of the pandemic. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Why Texas has not yet distributed $18 billion in federal funds intended for public schools

As budget decisions loom for school districts across Texas, state leaders are holding on to federal funds intended for public schools to use in addressing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The most recent drafts of a Dripping Springs logo and new slogan were presented to Dripping Springs City Council April 13. (Courtesy city of Dripping Springs)
Dripping Springs set for a facelift this summer, with new website, city logo and slogan

The new logo and slogan were developed by a city committee with feedback from city staff and community leaders.