Commissioner Says El Paso County Loses Millions Housing Federal Inmates

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By Becky FogelJune 5, 2017 12:55 pm

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El Paso County Commissioner Vincent Perez says the county is losing millions of dollars housing federal inmates, many of whom are being held on immigration charges.

Perez held a press conference Sunday where he called for the El Paso County Commissioners Court to end its contract with the U.S. Marshal Service to hold federal inmates in public jails.

“For about three years now my office has questioned whether the longstanding sheriff’s contract to house federal inmates makes financial sense for El Paso County taxpayers,” Perez says.

The El Paso Times reports the federal government pays $80 per federal inmate while the county puts up $89 to shelter and feed them.

According to Perez’s office, that’s resulted in $17 million worth of losses for El Paso County since 2012.

Perez says El Paso houses the lion’s share of federal inmates in Texas.

“In May of this year there were approximately 2,600 federal inmates in Texas county jails. El Paso alone housed 693 of them,” he says.

El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles held a press conference the same day where he challenged Perez’s comments. Wiles says the federal contract helps fund the county jails and that without it, 200 jobs would be lost at the downtown jail alone.

Efforts to renovate Houston’s Astrodome have one less hurdle in their way after a bill targeting the project died at the end of the Texas legislative session, reports Houston Public Media’s Andrew Schneider.

Senate Bill 884 required that any Texas county with at least 3.3 million residents get voter approval to redevelop sports facilities older than 50 years, if the project costs $10 million or more.

Harris County’s proposal to repurpose the Astrodome is the only current project that checks all of those boxes.

“When the Senate held a hearing, all the people who registered to speak spoke against the bill, and yet the bill passed unanimously in the committee and then passed unanimously in the Senate,” says Harvey Tucker, a political science professor at Texas A&M University.

But the bill ultimately died in the House County Affairs Committee without a hearing.

“I think what you got this legislative session was clearly – at least on one level, at least on the Astrodome – a defeat of this effort to kind of micromanage county and city governments by the legislature every other year,” says Bob Stein, a political scientist at Rice University.

Harris County leaders are now expected to move ahead with the plan to renovate the Astrodome as an event space with underground parking.

Baylor University is having about $6 million dollars of its Big 12 revenue held in escrow while the conference verifies changes on campus in the aftermath of sexual assaults and cover-ups among the Baylor football team.

The Big 12 Commissioner said the review of reforms will take time.