A letter from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards to Karnes County Sheriff Dwayne Villanueva dated April 3 acknowledged the excellent work done by the Karnes County Sheriff’s Office in obtaining a Certificate of Compliance for the Karnes County Jail.
“The Certificate of Compliance demonstrates your outstanding leadership and the diligent work of your staff in complying with minimum jail standards,” The letter stated. “In addition, this achievement is a direct result of your office’s commitment to excellence and is an example of dedication and professionalism in maintaining a safe, secure, and sanitary facility.”
“The citizens of Karnes County should be proud of your combined efforts, as is the Texas Commission on Jail Standards,” the letter concluded.
Karnes County Sheriff Dwayne Villanueva explained during an interview with The Karnes Coutnywide last week that one of the main issues with the aging county jail was with increasingly strict standards regarding segregating offenders based on their gender or level of risk to other offenders.
Villanueva explained that they have been better able to meet that standard by housing maiximum security offenders at the GEO Group’s Karnes County Correctional Center.
Thirty beds are available for county offenders at the GEO unit as a result of an agreement between GEO and Karnes County, and the county is now able to make use of all 30 beds. Until recently, however, the county was unable to make use of these beds because the GEO unit did not meet state standards for incarcerating state and county offenders.
Fortunately, that is no longer the case and Villanueva said the county is now able to utilize, on average, 21 to 27 of the beds available at the GEO unit.
With recent changes in Karnes County as a result of the Eagle Ford Shale oil boom, especially in regard to a much higher number of people living and working in the county, the demand for beds for offenders is higher than it ever has been.
DWIs and family violence offenses continue to be a problem but drug offenses are also on the rise, Villanueva explained, especially in regard to synthetic marijuana.
“They are so aggressive,” Villanueva explained regarding users of the new drug. “I have seen aggressive before, as with cocaine and other drugs, but with synthetic marijuana it is especially bad.”
The sheer volume that the sheriff’s office has to deal with now, is especially different than it once was, Villanueva said.
The sheriff explained that the fact that the county is actively working toward the construction of a new jail, may be helpful in regard to staying in compliance with the commission’s standards.
As far as Villanueva is concerned, the construction and opening of the new county jail can not happen soon enough, although completion of the project may be one to two years from now.
“We will have a new facility and we will have more cells to separate offenders and this will make it much easier to stay in compliance,” Villanueva said.