Lubbock Looking to Close City Jail

The City of Lubbock is looking to save some money by closing its municipal detention center. How much money?
By James Clark

LUBBOCK, TX – The City of Lubbock is looking to save some money by closing its municipal detention center. How much money?

“From what I’m hearing – a few hundred thousand dollars [per year],” said City Councilman Todd Klein.

Currently Lubbock Police might take an arrested person to the Lubbock County Jail or to the detention center. The decision on where to initially incarcerate a suspect depends on the circumstances, but ultimately the vast majority of suspects sooner-or-later end up at the Lubbock County Jail. So, for Councilman Klein there seems to be little or no reason for the city to have its own jail.

“We’re going to be doing more with less,” Klein said.

Earlier this year Klein proposed a task force including Police Chief Roger Ellis and Sheriff Kelly Rowe. The task force tested the closure of the detention center starting in late September.

In light of that test, Chief Ellis told the City Council Thursday evening, “Everything is looking terrific. It’s been a smooth process.”

Ellis said that if the detention center is permanently closed there would be some computer issues that need to be solved.

Sheriff Rowe told the Council, “Things are working exactly like we assumed they would work.”

Prior to the Council meeting, Klein told, “This will save time for the officers with the detainee and it will avoid the need for a transfer [from the detention center to the county jail].”

“There’s no down side, and, in fact, if you remove things like liability it really becomes a win-win,” Klein said. 

Mayor Glen Robertson voted against the task force earlier this year saying he was “skeptical.”  He told the Council he was happy to be proven wrong.

There is, however, a small catch. There are some inmates, depending on circumstances, that the county does not have to accept until they’ve been presented before a city magistrate.

Then-Sheriff Sonny Keesee refused to accept city inmates in the late 1990’s because of a dispute between his department and the police.

With the memory of Keesees decision in mind, Klein said a written agreement such as a “memorandum of understanding” between the city and the county would be needed.

The Councilman also thinks closing the detention center would delay or eliminate the need for a proposed new police department building. How much would a new police building cost?

Klein said, “I’ve heard $20 million on the low end. I’ve heard $60 million on the high end. We don’t have a solid number at this point.”

Klein said even if a new police building is still needed, it could be a less-expensive facility if a new detention center is left out.
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