Breckenridge Texan

Behind the scenes at the Stephens County Sheriff’s Office: Taking a look at ‘transports’

Behind the scenes at the Stephens County Sheriff’s Office: Taking a look at ‘transports’
May 21
10:30 2018

Some of duties of the Sheriff’s Office are more obvious and widely recognized than others. For example, many citizens know that the sheriff’s department operates the local jail and that deputies make patrols and serve warrants. However, a lesser known aspect of the department is the job of transporting inmates to various facilities throughout the state.

According to information from Sheriff Will Holt, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice doesn’t pick up inmates who have been sentenced to prison or state jail. The task of taking inmates to TDCJ units is assigned to the sheriff offices in Texas. Most of the time, the departments are given a week or week-and-a-half’s notice of when and where to take the inmates. The S.O. is responsible for the fuel, wear and tear on vehicles, etc.

The Stephens County Sheriff’s Office makes an average of eight transports each month. The deputies use their own patrol vehicles most of the time. Some of the destinations are only an hour or two away, some are in the 3- to 4-hour range, and a few can involve a drive of five or more hours.

“Many S.O.s have a transport division or a designated transport deputy,” Stephens County Sheriff Will Holt said in a recent report. “We are not budgeted for that. Additionally, all of the costs of the transports are paid for by the S.O. (fuel, manpower hours, vehicle, feeding an inmate if necessary, etc.). Because I only have four patrol deputies, anytime a transport must take place, that means that usually, that patrol deputy is out of the county doing the transport, leaving less coverage for patrol in the county and less proactive enforcement. Or we must pay overtime for another deputy to do the transport or fill in on patrol while the regularly scheduled deputy is out of county conducting the transport. Of course, the Chief Deputy and I are happy to fill in whenever possible and we do in fact do so. But, as leaders and supervisors of the S.O. staff, it is not wise for us to constantly have to fill voids designed to be carried out by non-ranking personnel.”

Occasionally, one of the detention officers who has gone through the armed (with a firearm) detention officer/jailer training, is allowed to transport an inmate. However, the sheriff said he tries to avoid that as much as possible, because the detention officers are needed in the jail, plus it is generally considered a best-practice to have certified Texas peace officers making the drives out of the county.

Because Holt regularly mentions transports in his Sheriff’s Office Summary, he wanted to give the citizens of Stephens County an idea of what each of those types of transports is. So, he has defined the various transports below:

  • Emergency Detention Orders (EDOs), aka Mental Health Transports – Any judge or peace officer can sign an EDO, which is an affidavit swearing that the subject is an immediate danger to himself/herself or others due to a mental condition. A professional, mental health evaluation of the person has to occur first. If the EDO is signed and if a mental health hospital has an opening for a new patient and accepts the person, then the Sheriff’s Office must transport the person, regardless of which agency or judge the EDO originated with. The Stephens County S.O. takes EDO transports to Abilene, Wichita Falls, Big Spring and San Angelo. No matter whether the EDO originates from the police department, Department of Public Safety, etc., if it happens in Stephens County, then the local S.O. is responsible for the transport.
  • Transports to TDCJ prisons – Anytime an inmate in Stephens County Jail receives a prison sentence for a felony, he or she must be transported to the prison. The TDCJ gives the S.O. about a week’s notice, informing the local department when and where the inmate is to be taken. Most male inmates from Stephens County are taken to a prison unit near Abilene, but female inmates are transported all over the state.
  • Transports to a State Jail Facility (also run by TDCJ) – People convicted of state jail felonies – aka fourth-degree felonies, which are the lowest level of felony offenses – must be transported to the state jails. When an inmate is sentenced to State Jail, the S.O. has a little bit of leeway as to when they can transport that person. For males, local inmates usually go to a state jail near Jacksboro. For females, it can vary.
  • Other TDCJ related transports – The S.O. also transports inmates to TDCJ facilities that focus on drug rehabilitation or other similar situation. These are usually minimum security facilities, and they are spread out all over Texas.
  • County Jail to County Jail Transports – If a person with an arrest warrant out of either the District Court or Justice of the Peace’s Court is arrested in another county, it is required of the county where the arrest warrant originated to go pick up the arrestee. So if John Smith has a warrant out of the 90th District Court, and he is arrested in Lubbock, Stephens County has up to 10 days to retrieve the inmate. If the inmate is not picked up within 10 days, that county jail can legally release the inmate. If there is already a set bond on the arrest warrant, then the arrested person has the ability to bond out of jail on the warrant in the other county where they were arrested. If they cannot, then the Stephens County S.O. goes and gets them within 10 days.
  • Juvenile Transports – The County Judge or the 90th District Judge can remand a juvenile into a delinquent facility. This does not happen often, but when it does it sets off a chain reaction of transports that the S.O. is almost always responsible for. Example: A juvenile is arrested for a serious offense, where it is not safe or wise to release them to their parents. The S.O. must take the juvenile to Abilene or Post, usually; sometimes, they are taken to Wichita Falls or elsewhere. However, status hearings for the juvenile are usually held every 15 days. That means the S.O. has to go get the juvenile from the delinquent facility, bring him or her back to Breckenridge, have the hearing, which is usually very short, then take the juvenile back to the same facility or sometimes to a different facility. So that means a round trip with the juvenile every 15 days until he or she is sentenced, released to guardians, charges dropped, etc.
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