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Upon taking office in January, Frio County Sheriff Mike Morse amended the former administration’s protocol and the jail is now accepting prisoners.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the former jail administration was working under a ‘catch-and-release’ policy aimed at reducing inmate population at the jail. Additionally, arresting agencies were subject to inmates being medically cleared before acceptance. Those restrictions imposed heavy costs on the arresting agencies and many individuals arrested for crime were cited and a warrant was issued for their arrest at a later date.
Frio County Chief Deputy Peter Salinas believes policies set by the former administration led to a decrease in public safety as habitual offenders soon learned the jail was not accepting inmates.
“Many of those requirements by the prior administration have been removed,” Salinas said in an interview this week. “It is all about community safety in mind. Those violent or habitual offenders are being taken into custody now.”
The change in policy for inmate admission has been welcomed by law enforcement agencies across the county.
“They do have some restrictions but they are taking felonies and misdemeanors on a case-by-case basis,” Dilley Police Chief Homer Delgado said in a January 26 meeting. “They are taking prisoners now as opposed to December, where no prisoners were being accepted. We have not run into major issues with the new administration and we are really excited to work with them. There are more options for us now than there were before, and it is a very positive thing.”
Although the jail operates as a 72-hour holding facility, the administration is making every attempt to accept arrested individuals and house them accordingly, according to Salinas.
“To just say we are closed because of the pandemic is over,” the chief deputy said.
In a Jan. 19 memorandum to local law enforcement agencies, Salinas explained the acceptance procedures for individuals that had been arrested and encouraged officers to use their discretion.
“We are at the mercy of those facilities’ requirements for their acceptance of our prisoners,” he stated. “These transfers may require medical clearance and a negative covid test. It is because of these issues we are facing that we are asking all agencies to utilize their best discretion when deciding to make an arrest.”
The chief deputy believes the main burden imposed on arresting agencies comes from requirements of a negative COVID-19 test before an inmate is transferred to another county jail.
The cost of medical testing is imposed on the arresting agency until the inmate has been magistrated; after a bond has been set the county then becomes responsible for any medical costs incurred by the inmate.
According to Jail Administrator John Meyer, Frio County presently has 31 inmates housed among facilities in three counties: Dimmit, Karnes and Zavala.
Since January, the jail has accepted 37 inmates on misdemeanor and felony charges.
“I am confident we will re-open as a full-time facility sooner rather than later,” Salinas said.