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Area county jail populations continue to climb amid the pandemic

Published: Feb. 1, 2021 at 7:38 PM CST
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - As criminal jury trials remain halted in many Texas counties, jail populations in Central Texas counties continue to grow.

The jails in Robertson and Coryell Counties are the third and fourth fullest jails in the state, respectively, according to a KWTX analysis of jail capacity data from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.

Robertson County is about 98% full while Coryell County is about 97% full.

The detention facilities in Milam County are not far behind at 88% full.

Meanwhile, jails in McLennan and Bell Counties have also seen their number of open beds shrink.

Bell County’s facilities are currently about 78% full, and McLennan County’s facilities are about 73% full — up from about 64% and 66% full in July.

“Covid is revealing all the cracks in the jails in Texas,” said Diana Claitor, co-founder of the Texas Jail Project.

“There are many people in the jails — in our county jails — that are accused of low-level nonviolent crimes that could well be released on a PR Bond,” Claitor said.

In addition to the pausing of jury trials, she said there are other factors that have caused the jail population to rise.

“Court appointed attorneys, which are serving our indigent or poorest populations, are overwhelmed or just simply missing in action,” Claitor said.

She said that means they are not able to negotiate lower bonds for low-income clients.

Additionally, she said that many jail workers across the state are out sick with COVID-19, and that can increase the amount of time that people spend behind bars.

“At a time when there are so many at risk of a very serious contagious illness, we should have those jails at a very low population,” Claitor said.

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