Smith County voters said yes to a $35 million bond proposal for a major jail expansion recently that will upon completion end the county’s need to pay to house prisoners elsewhere.
Since the completion of the Henderson County Jail expansion project, Smith County inmates have often been transported to the facility in Athens to alleviate overcrowding. Henderson County gets $38 per day for each inmate housed.
Henderson County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Botie Hillhouse said the jail in Athens had seen a spike in Smith County prisoners earlier in the year when they were removed from the Anderson County Jail.
By state law the contract prisoners had be taken from the facility after it failed to pass to pass a Commission on Jail Standards Inspection, March 8.
Hillhouse did not have a breakdown of how many Smith County inmates were currently in the Henderson County jail, but said the total out-of-county jail population had gone from 14 in December to 74 in March and 69 in April. By this week the number had grown to 88.
Henderson County’s total jail population has increased from 268 in March to about 360 Monday.
The jail would be overflowing if the county completed a jail expansion in 2008 at a cost of about $12 million. That total also included improvements to the old jail. The expansion increased the capacity from about 200 beds to more than 500.
In April, the Smith County Commissioner’s Court unanimously voted to place the $35 million bond proposal on the May 14 ballot. The expansion will add 384 beds to the jail located in Downtown Tyler.
Smith County voters approved the plan by a vote of 3,644 in favor and 2,136 against. The totals represent only five percent of the eligible voters in the county.