KCBD Investigates: Lubbock County sheriff says expansion is needed as jail nears capacity

Published: Nov. 21, 2022 at 5:33 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 21, 2022 at 10:10 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The inmate population at jails across the state, including the Lubbock County Detention Center, is on the rise. Lubbock County Sheriff Kelly Rowe said on average, the statewide jail population is typically between 60,000 to 65,000.

Rowe said in August, the number grew to 72,000 inmates, and the female population has increased at a surprising rate.

“Females have all but doubled in population. That is a change that’s been happening over the last 10 years,” he said.

Females used to make up about 10 percent of the total jail population.

“We are currently sitting at 18 percent,” Rowe said.

Lubbock is not unique. The sheriff says jails across the state are reporting females now make up 18 to 20 percent of the inmate population.

The Lubbock County Detention Center’s total capacity is 1,512, but he said they will never be at 100 percent capacity due to classification needs.

For example, female inmates must be out of sight and sound of male inmates.

The Lubbock County Detention Center is sitting at about 90 percent capacity, and that is pushing the limit.

“Once we start getting beyond that part, we are back to where we were 15 or 20 years ago, and that is hunting for beds like a lot of jurisdictions are doing,” Rowe said.

Harris County, for example, has transferred inmates to Post and out-of-state to Louisiana.

Rowe expects the inmate population to continue to rise.

“We are anticipating the overcrowding we used to see back in the early 90s before TDC did a lot of its massive construction projects, and really expanded a lot of facilities across the state,” he said.

Rowe says the overcrowding problem is two-fold; either jails are seeing an influx of inmates, or they cannot fill the beds they have because they don’t have the staff.

“So they are still having to transfer inmates out where they can find beds, but those beds are getting harder and harder to find.”

The Lubbock County Detention Center has about 30 to 40 staff openings week after week.

“I’m hurting out there like most places,” Rowe said.

While Rowe looks to fill those positions, he said he also needs more space.

In October, Lubbock County Commissioners approved an assessment of the jail to determine what kind of expansion it needs.

Rowe said the same architects who designed the current facility will conduct the study.

“We made that building very easy to expand, but not inexpensive, unfortunately.”