Jefferson County suing City of Beaumont over cost of housing prisoners

City officials said the county has been overcharging them hundreds of thousands of dollars for years.

BEAUMONT, Texas — Jefferson County filed a lawsuit against the City of Beaumont in May of 2016, and now that case is set to head to trial in October unless a deal over the cost of housing prisoners can be reached. 

According to a news release, city leaders feel that Jefferson County has been overcharging them hundreds of thousands of dollars for years.

The release went on to say city leaders believe this started 10 years ago.  They claim Jefferson County is charging them and the City of Port Arthur higher rates per day per prisoner than the cities of Nederland, Port Neches and Groves.  In 2011, Jefferson County offered to charge Nederland, Port Neches and Groves $55 per day, while offering to charge Beaumont and Port Arthur $75 per day.

City officials said they felt this was unfair and said all cities should be treated the same. The item is up for discussion at Tuesday’s Jefferson County Commissioners meeting.

The city also has another issue with the county. City leaders are questioning when the responsibility of a prisoner transitions into the responsibly of the county.

According to the news release, city officials believe after a prisoner goes before a magistrate, and they are committed to jail, the prisoner should be the responsibility of the county. City leaders argue at that point the county should pay to house them. But, county officials believe Jefferson County cities should pay for the prisoner until they are formally indicted by the district attorney’s office.

Beaumont city officials said they do not know of any other Texas county within the 254 counties that does business like this, and they believe this is a practice used by Jefferson County to decrease their expenses and obligations under state law.

Written by Tiana Johnson (KBMT)

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