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Scott Henson, our pal dishing out Grits for Breakfast, points out this Dallas Morning News story from yesterday, about $9-mil-plus being spent on overtime pay at the Dallas County jails, and wonders if that ain't just the tip of the penal iceberg. After all, Henson asks, what happens in February of next year, when Dallas County is scheduled to open that new 2,300-bed jail wing? Henson notes:

At the state's 48-1 staffing ratio (a too-high number for safety's sake, if you ask me, but that's the rule), assuming three, eight-hour shifts, the new jail will require 144 additional front-line guards -- perhaps 175 or 200 by the time you add in supervisors, travel details and backup, plus administration and support -- call it an additional $8-9 million or so annually, as a ballpark guesstimate, just to staff the planned new unit. If voters want to use incarceration as the primary government response to every social problem, at some point they have to pay the tab. Dallas taxpayers are discovering that they're only barely able to do so.

Henson, incidentally, insists this one doesn't lay at the boots of Sheriff Lupe Valdez; not like she created the overcrowding problem. --Robert Wilonsky

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Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


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