A week and a half ago, the Hutchinson County Jail found a minor gas leak, and once they started to dig a little more, discovered the smoke detectors in the jail were not working properly. Half of the inmates were moved to Wheeler County and the other half were sent to Childress County, with 17 temporarily staying in each.
??This is probably the biggest headache. You ask any sheriff in the state and they will tell you this is their biggest headache. Because you have to take care?|they have more rights in here than you and I do out on the street,?? said Hutchinson County Sheriff, Don Johnson.
He said that there is always a budget for inmate housing, but for a year??s time, with a 32-year-old facility and unforeseen issues, you cannot budget for that.
??The safety of my officers and the safety of my inmates. That??s my two main concerns,?? said Sheriff Johnson. ??Yeah, budget is a big concern because that??s a lot of taxpayer money. You??ve got manage it, you??ve got to take care of that, but like I said, with a 32-year-old facility, you??re going to have things go wrong.??
Currently the jail has contracts with the city of Fritch, Borger and Hansford County that brings in money each month housing those city??s inmates. However, though the contracts have helped with the budget and costs, it may not be enough, and Sheriff Johnson is not ruling out the idea of raising taxes to compensate for the necessary costs. However, there are still no talks of building a new facility.
??We need one. But is it going to happen? Probably not,?? said Sheriff Johnson.
Johnson also said he believes the residents of the area understand the necessity of maintaining the jail and taking care of the inmates. He said he has never received much backlash for work or cost on jail improvements and maintenance and knows that the people of the county understand the issues.
The jail will have to run a smoke test in every section of the jail and ensure that the detecors go off within the mandated time before inmates are allowed to return. The sheriff said he is hoping they will reopen by next week.