Fort Worth will take a long look at jail partnership with Tarrant County

Posted Tuesday, Mar. 26, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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FORT WORTH -- Fort Worth has entered "longer-term" talks with Tarrant County on the feasibility of the county housing the city's jail inmates, but in the meantime expects to let the city's jail contract with Mansfield automatically renew for another year, Police Chief Jeff Halstead said.

The idea of Fort Worth running its own jail, in a former privately-owned prison facility near the city's Diamond Hill neighborhood, is likely out, Halstead said in an interview. The contract is for $6 million this year.

Fort Worth's contract with Mansfield has an annual early April deadline under which Fort Worth can opt out of automatic renewal the following October.

"That letter is not being drafted," Halstead said.

The city is conducting its due diligence on a possible partnership with the county, and it will likely take another six months to assemble the information, Halstead said.

A city-hired consultant recommended in November that Fort Worth turn the old lockup at 4700 Blue Mound Road in North Fort Worth into a city-owned jail to save money over the cost of the Mansfield contract.

But Diamond Hill residents immediately objected, and Councilman Sal Espino and Mayor Betsy Price seized on the lack of specifics regarding a potential city-county partnership and asked for talks between the two.

Regarding the prospect of a city-owned jail, Halstead said: "I think that is out of the question. We did our due diligence. There was too much unknown."

Terry Grisham, executive administrator for the sheriff's office, said Tuesday that Sheriff Dee Anderson remains amenable.

"The whole negotiating process comes down to two things: No. 1, the sheriff has to be agreeable. The sheriff is agreeable. No. 2, to make a deal, the commissioner's court has to be happy with the financial arrangement," Grisham said.

Anderson has said city-county jails in large urban areas, particularly where the largest city is close to the courthouse and jail complex, makes sense.

Anderson remains steadfast in his opposition to taking Fort Worth's Class C misdemeanor arrests, Grisham said. Those include ones for public intoxication and tickets. Public intoxication processing, in particular, is often unpredictable, volatile, and expensive to run, Anderson has said.

Anderson may agree to exceptions for Class C arrests on warrants, or situations such as "road-rage" arrests, Grisham said.

Halstead and Anderson have also said other cities are increasingly changing the handling of public intoxication cases - those not involving operation of a motor vehicle - to a rehabilitation model. In some cities, officers drop drunks off at a center that's under contract to help get them into rehab.

Scott Nishimura, (817) 390-7808

Twitter: @JScottNishimura

Scott Nishimura, (817) 390-7808; Twitter: @JScottNishimura

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