AUSTIN, Texas — An advisory committee for the Travis County Sheriff published a new report envisioning what a model female jail looks like.

  • New report envisioning what a model female jail looks like
  • Travis County Sheriff argues the county needs a correctional facility designed for women
  • Earlier this year Commissioners delayed construction of a $97 million facility

This report comes as the Sheriff argues that the county is still in need of a correctional facility designed with women in mind.

“I wish that people would put me out of business. I don’t want people in jail either, but I also believe the great work that we’re doing inside of the jail,” Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez said.

County officials have a master plan addressing the need for major upgrades to the Travis County Correctional Complex. Under phase one, is the construction of a new women’s facility.

“[Jails] were originally built for men in mind so, we have female women in four different buildings and they’re not all in one location, so their ability to go to programs and to medical it’s much more challenging,” Hernandez said.

Researchers involved in the nine-month long study said facilities need to address the unique challenges women face. Michele Deitch, a senior lecturer at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, is the advisory committee’s chair.

“[Female inmates are] charged with lower level crimes, they also are overwhelmingly mothers, almost 80 percent of them are mothers, primarily single mothers responsible for the care of young children." Ninety percent of them come in with very serious histories of trauma in their lives,” Deitch said.

Deitch argued that when women are treated differently in jail in a way that addressed their needs, there will be lower rates of violence. She said the goal of the plan is to minimize harm to inmates, create better outcomes for those inmates and their families, and have a better work environment for staff.

“We wanted a place that would respect the dignity of people who are incarcerated and also a place that would try to strengthen family relationships,” Deitch said.  

Earlier this year, Travis County Commissioners delayed construction of the $97 million project, after advocates urged them to invest in diversion programs and mental health services. Commissioners are set to vote on the project again in the spring.

“I agree that we need diversion programs, but we also have to take care of our women that are in our facility,” Hernandez said.