Jefferson County terminates Port Arthur Police’s access to county jail

Published 12:36 am Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Those arrested in Port Arthur and Beaumont will no longer have access to the Jefferson County Correctional Facility after commissioners on Tuesday voted to terminate interlocal agreements with both cities in accordance with housing prisoners.

According to County Auditor Patrick Swain, all county entities were notified in 2011 that the cost of housing inmates would increase to $75 a day.

“That caused quite a bit of consternation at the time,” Swain said. “We had been at $52 a day…before that, with all the entities.”

He said Beaumont paid 35 percent of the daily charges, resulting in a $3.6 million debt to the county. Port Arthur also paid 35 percent but did make “a couple of 100 percent payments” resulting in a $970,000 balance.

The City of Beaumont on Monday issued a notice saying both it and Port Arthur had been treated differently than Mid County cities when it came to housing prisoners.

“Jefferson County was charging a higher rate per day per prisoners for Beaumont and Port Arthur,” the notice states. “We felt this was unfair and wanted all cities to be treated the same.”

Beaumont officials say they and Port Arthur were being charged $75 per day, whereas the three Mid County cities were charged $55 per day.

“The City of Beaumont believes that when the prisoner is ‘committed’ to jail, they are the responsibility of the County and the County should pay to house that prisoner. Jefferson County wants the cities in Jefferson County to pay for the prisoner until they are formally charged by the District Attorney’s Office. We are not aware of another county in Texas, out of 254 counties, that does business this way.”

Port Arthur Police Chief Tim Duriso was present during Tuesday’s meeting, and Commissioner Michael Sinegal said Duriso was willing to work with the county to resolve the situation.

In October, Jefferson County and the City of Beaumont are scheduled to go to trial after the county filed suit against the city in 2016 regarding the cost of housing prisoners.