Could inmates live outdoors in Bexar County?

Newly introduced bill in state legislature would make tent jails legal

SAN ANTONIO - Former Bexar County Commissioner and current State Rep. Lyle Larson introduced a bill this week that would allow for permanent tent cities to be created at jails at the discretion of county commissioners throughout Texas.

The tents would house certain low to medium risk prisoners, keeping them outdoors for the majority of their time without typical amenities found indoors, such as television.

A similar system, and the one most talked about nationwide, was set up in Arizona in the early '90s by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Larson and current County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson toured the facility in 2006, sparking the first discussions about the system.

As Adkisson sees it, a so-called "tent city" would be constructed somewhere in the county and would house between 200 and 300 hand-picked inmates.

“It’s all about trying to ease the rate at which offenders recommit crimes here,” Adkisson said. “Clearly something is wrong when so many people continually come back to jail, and we need to do something to fix that.”

He said the tough living conditions would make inmates think twice before committing another crime, although Adkisson assured the conditions wouldn’t be abusive.

Many opponents nationwide have argued the opposite, however, and have called Arpaio’s practices abusive and inhumane.

No practical discussions on how the tent city would be run in Bexar County will occur, however, unless Larson’s bill passes.

It likely will not be considered until early next year.


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