Texas county and city at odds over prisoner housing costs

If you drive 85 miles east of Houston, you’ll find yourself in the City of Beaumont, the seat of Jefferson County.

The city and the county are in a long-running feud over the fees charged by the county to house prisoners.

Dispute headed to court

Five years ago, Jefferson County filed a lawsuit against Beaumont, and the case is finally heading to trial unless city and county leaders strike a deal beforehand.

Beaumont officials say the dispute began 10 years ago. They claim that the county is charging Beaumont and Port Arthur $75 per day per prisoner, while it charges Nederland, Port Neches and Groves just $55 a day.

City officials say that the arrangement that began in 2011 is unfair and that all Jefferson County cities should be charged the same rate.

Another city-county disagreement

City and county officials are also at odds over prisoner transitions. The city argues that after a person in custody goes before a Beaumont magistrate and is committed to the county jail, the county then has financial responsibility for the prisoner.

County officials believe that all Jefferson County cities should foot the bills for prisoners until they’ve been charged by the district attorney’s office.

According to a local TV news report, Beaumont officials said they don’t know of another county in Texas that has an arrangement like this; a convenient arrangement for the county, they say, enabling it to decrease its costs at the expense of the cities.

“The City of Beaumont believes Jefferson County is overcharging them hundreds of thousands of dollars each year,” city officials stated in a press release.