Dick said the county jail can hold up to 1,200 inmates. Currently, the jail has 374. On average, the jail daily population is 518, officials confirmed.
Patricia Gutierrez, public information officer for the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, said some inmates have been released since the coronavirus outbreak, but not all releases are due to the pandemic.
“Some finished their time; [others] were transported to other counties, posted bond or were issued orders to appear,” Gutierrez said in an email.
Gutierrez added that if inmates are being released, their crimes do not include any use of force or injury to another person.
“The Sheriff’s Office is still fulfilling its mission to keep the citizens of Williamson County safe,” Gutierrez said, adding that the office is regularly screening and monitoring inmates for the coronavirus.
Dick added that if inmates are being released, they are being released on Class C misdemeanors—minor offenses, like disorderly conduct or public intoxication, which do not require jail time anyways.
Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell attributes the low jail population to the county’s work in creating diversion programs, which work to help low-offense criminals through rehabilitation and less jail time with the goal of reducing recidivism, or the rate at which someone is likely to commit a second offense.
The county currently has several intervention programs for veterans, young adults, DWIs, drug misdemeanors and more.
When it comes to felony charges, Dick said decisions related to prosecution and incarceration are being made on a case-by-case basis to help preserve resources. But if someone commits a higher-level felony—like robbery, assault or burglary—as a way of taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic, his office will still prosecute to the fullest extent possible.
“We do not want to send the message that the public is not safe and we won’t prosecute,” Dick said. “If people are trying to take advantage, [the DA’s office] will prosecute to the maximum.”