ODESSA, Texas — After several years of attempting to fund an expansion of the Ector County Detention Center in Odessa, county officials approved the issuance of a 20-year, $25 million public debt on May 22. Construction on the jail could begin in early 2018 following design approval.
Ector County spends up to $3 million each year to transport and then house overflow inmates in other facilities all across the state, as overcrowding has been a persistent problem. This practice also forces the county to spend more money on transportation when inmates are required to appear in court.
The existing medium-security Ector County Detention Center is currently only rated to house 667 inmates. The six-building design features four inmate-housing buildings connected to a central facility. That central facility houses kitchen and dining spaces, the central control room, administrative offices, medical facilities and a receiving area.
Beyond the monetary cost of housing and transporting inmates off site, County Judge Ron Eckert told The Odessa American, a local news source, that he is more concerned about the toll the practice takes on the health of deputies and inmates, and that he worries about potential accidents. “They’re doing their time. They’re paying their debt to society. They still have rights, and they still have the right to life,” Eckert added in a statement to The Odessa American on May 22. “I am excited because I think what we did today will make a safer community.”
Ector County Commissioners were unanimous in their support of the debt issuance, although Precinct 2 Commissioner Greg Simmons told The Odessa American that he remains concerned about long-term operational and payroll costs. Simmons previously opposed the expansion for that same reason, but called the elimination of out-of-county inmate housing and transportation costs “good news.”
The county will now work with JSA Architects of Odessa to develop the expansion project under a more than $1.8 million contract. The firm also designed the Ector County Law Enforcement project in 1995 and previously worked with the county (along with Agnew Associates Inc. of Lubbock, Texas) to survey the detention center and develop possible construction and expansion scenarios.
In November 2016, Ector County Commissioners also considered a $15 million proposal and a $17 million proposal for an expansion of the Ector County Detention Center to address chronic overcrowding, but did not have a plan for funding the project.
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