HENDERSON COUNTY, Texas — From meals to medical services to housing, the costs associated with operating a county jail can be expensive, especially when the jail is in compliance with standards outlined by the state.
"In Henderson County, that's going to cost over $2,800 per person to sit in jail for 90 days," Henderson County Sheriff Botie Hillhouse explained.
If you multiply that dollar amount by the potentially hundreds of inmates with a 90-day stay at the jail, Sheriff Hillhouse says the costs can add up.
It is important to note housing costs are just the start of a jail's budget.
"People don't really realize how much it costs to feed these inmates on a daily basis," Sheriff Hillhouse explained.
According to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, Henderson County ranks in the top 25% of the state with the highest incarceration rates. Hillhouse says the costs spent annually for inmate food services closely mirrors what the county pays for medical services for the jail.
"For the year 2020, we've got $525,600 set aside to feed the inmates. The new price we're paying for a regular inmate meal, we're paying $1.09 per tray and then, a trustee meal is a $1.30 per tray," the sheriff said.
The county recently accepted a new bid with Five Star Correctional Services to continue its contract as the supplier for meals and cooking for the jail.
"The trustee meals went up about two cents, and the regular inmate meal went up a penny," Hillhouse said. "The difference between that, the trustees, we're working them, they get more portions."
Under regulations from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, inmates must be provided three meals a day. Each meal is required to be approved by a licensed dietitian to ensure basic nutrition needs are met.
"When you think about it, $1.09 is a great deal, but when you're feeding the number of inmates we have, it's a major expense to the county."
There are 246 county jails in Texas. Many of the costs associated with maintain the jails are paid for out of county and municipal general funds.