LONGVIEW (KYTX) - In his 36 years as a criminal defense lawyer in Gregg County -- David Ingram says he's learned, "When the economy goes bad, the crime rate goes up."
So he wasn't surprised to learn Gregg County's incarceration rate was the highest of any urban county in the state. That's according to a report September 1 from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. On that snapshot day -- the Gregg County Jail had 587 inmates. That's an average of 4.8 inmates for every 1,000 people living in the county.
The state average was 2.3 inmates per 1,000 residents. No other East Texas county ranked among the top 15.
Only three counties had a higher incarceration rate on Sept. 1 than Gregg County, but those three counties have a combined population of fewer than 5,000 residents. One inmate can make a huge difference in their monthly incarceration rate. So why is Gregg County, with more than 121,000 people living in it, so high on the list?
"The economy has not recovered in Gregg County," Ingram said, "so the crime rate seems to continually rise."
According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the rate of job growth in Longview lags 20 percent behind the rest of the state.
"Even though a person is willing to work, they're unable to make ends meet," Ingram said.
Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace B.H. Jameson arraigns most county inmates, and he has a different take.
"We have more officers in Gregg County than we do in some of the surrounding counties," Jameson said. "I think that might make a big difference on the number of arrests that are made."
Thursday's population at the Gregg County Jail is 549 local inmates, according to Sheriff Maxey Cerliano.
To see the complete report from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, click here.