EDINBURG, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Hidalgo County’s jail is experiencing crowding, forcing the county to send inmates to neighboring facilities. 

“Since 2003, or 2004, we’ve had to rent beds,” Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra told ValleyCentral.

Despite having more than 1,600 inmates in Hidalgo County’s jail, the facility has about 12 hundred beds, officials said.

‘When this current jail was built, it was originally supposed to be 2,000 beds,” Guerra said. “But county government at that time had reduced it to save money. But unfortunately, that was a very very costly decision that they made back at that time.”

The decision is costing the county over $9 million per year, as officials rent 403 beds for inmates from Brooks, Jim Hogg, and Starr counties. 

Guerra says some inmates are awaiting trial on minor misdemeanor charges and could be released on bail to alleviate some of the overpopulation. But he is concerned about the violent offenders.   

‘Once you’re found guilty, then you’re transferred to a state facility and you serve your time in a state facility,” Guerra said. “Unless of course you’re serving a an offense where a Class A or Class B misdemeanor, then you serve that time in a in a county facility.”

The Hidalgo County Commissioners Court in 2022 entered into an agreement to lease spaces at the Willacy County Detention Center, which can hold 568 inmates. However, the county is currently working to meet requirements set by the state.

“We’ve got engineers and my staff that are working to find the quickest way possible to make it a county facility,” Guerra said.

When it comes to solutions for overcrowded jails, Ray Rodriguez Jr., a criminal defense attorney, said: “There is an overwhelming problem with overcrowding of our local county jails… various ways exist to alleviate the problem.   

“P.R. bonds allow an individual to be released from County jail pending their day in court without having to pay a bond,” Rodriguez said. “The accused simply gives his word that he will show up for the future court date if and when it occurs.”