When Collin County outgrew its jail facility in the early 1990s and began looking for a new location, officials knew the county needed a jail that would not only provide for current needs, but for the future as well.
The county succeeded. Twenty-two years later, there is still room for the Collin County Detention Facility to grow.
“Early in the ’90s, we were out of space at the old jail in downtown McKinney,” Collin County Sheriff Terry Box said. “With the rapid amount of growth coming to Collin County, we were foreseeing building something that would handle our immediate needs but also would be easy and hopefully cheaper to be added onto for over a 25-50-year period.”
The Collin County Detention Facility opened in 1994 with 536 beds and a solid plan to add on as needed, Box said. The facility—attached to the Collin County Sheriff’s Office by a breezeway—was designed with one building for jail services and a series of other buildings called clusters. Each cluster is made up of four pods, where inmates are housed.
“I want our employees to feel like they work in a professional environment. This is the taxpayers’ big investment—it’s cleaned up, it’s painted, it’s taken care of.”
—Terry Box, Collin County sheriff
The jail facility opened with two clusters, and as the jail population grew, two clusters were added, along with a new minimum security facility.
“When we first opened the building, every five years we were adding on another cluster of 288 beds. That stopped several years ago,” Box said.
The latest cluster—the fourth—opened in 2007, and despite Collin County’s significant growth in the past decade, Box said he does not think the jail will need to add another cluster for at least another four to five years.
Trending against the population
The highest the jail population has been was 1,013 inmates in 2011. For the first six months of 2016, the jail population has averaged 897 inmates.
Jail Administrator Charles Adams said an agreement with the Collin County District Attorney’s office and the court system put more priority on jail cases, which helped bring down the inmate population to a more manageable count after 2011.
While the population of Collin County increased about 17 percent from 2010 to 2015, the average yearly jail population has decreased by almost 4 percent during the same time frame, according to sheriff’s office records.
Neither Box nor Adams can pinpoint the reason for the growth discrepancy between the county and the jail populations, but both said their best guess is because of demographics.
“Our [jail] admissions are down, but the county continues to grow,” Adams said. “I think a lot of that could have to do with the robust economy we have here in Collin County right now. The county itself is a fairly wealthy county when you look at the demographics, so I think that contributes to it.”
Adams said crime trends could shift as areas in northern Plano and Frisco continue to grow.
“I would expect that to draw more retail crime, but we just haven’t seen a huge jump,” Adams said.
The sheriff said although there is plenty of crime in Collin County, the jail has worked to put in processes in the DA’s office and court system to be able to monitor cases and ensure inmates are moving through the system and not sitting in jail.
“There are a lot of mechanisms in place that allows the jail to keep people moving,” Adams said. “The cities have programs where we cooperate with them and allow [inmates] to bond out of jail by statute, so some of them were never transferred here. Even here in the jail system alone, there is a lot of programming that gets people out of jail.”
Local jails, such as the Plano City Jail, are short-term facilities, meaning a person will leave the facility within a week, Plano detention manager Meredith Poole said. Prisoners accused of more serious Class A or B offense are transferred to the county jail within 48 hours, she said.
All prisoners arrested in Plano will go through the Plano jail before being transferred to the county jail.
Regardless of future growth, the Collin County Detention Facility is in a good position to expand, Box said. Two more housing clusters can be added to the existing complex, and the minimum security facility can be doubled in size, he said. Long-term plans could include another housing complex east of the current jail facility.
Although the county facility is now 22 years old, it was built as a state-of-the-art facility. Careful attention to maintenance along with an innovative style of jail management has kept the jail in excellent condition, Box said.
“I want our employees to feel like they work in a professional environment,” Box said. “This is the taxpayers’ big investment—it’s cleaned up, it’s painted, it’s taken care of.”
The facility is operated as a direct supervision facility, which means that rather than having inmates locked up behind bars, inmates are free to roam their pods during the day as long as they follow jail rules. Inmates are constantly supervised by deputies.
“A lot of people expect to see bars and sliding gates,” Adams said. “When you get back inside my jail, you will see that it will look more like a hospital when you’re walking down the hallways.”
Inmates are first placed into a classification pod where they learn jail rules. They are then transferred to a general population pod already understanding, and are already aware of what is expected of them.
“What ends up happening is that by having those rules and having those officers in the pod who are constantly monitoring those rules and making sure those inmates understand our expectations, then the inmates begin to feel safer,” Adams said. “When a person feels safer, they aren’t going to act out as much.”
The jail was the first in Texas to adopt the direct supervision jail style—a style Collin County adopted after officials toured another such facility in Reno, Nevada, before beginning construction. The Collin County jail now serves as an example for counties throughout the U.S. wanting to build direct supervision jails, Box said.
“We’re kinda the showplace for county jails right now in the nation that people want to come to and look how we’re operating and how it works for us,” Box said. “We’re very proud of that, and I think the employees are, too.”
Adams said the direct supervision approach has cut down on lawsuits and inmate assaults as well as wear and tear on the facility. It also requires less staff than a traditional jail.
Box said the management style works because it is a jail and not a penitentiary. He and Adams said the majority of inmates in the jail have not been convicted—they are waiting for a trial through the court system.
“I have never in my career here, as sheriff for 32 years, settled a lawsuit,” Box said. “There has never been a lawsuit come up in this jail that the county has been liable for, because the courts, judges and everybody else knows that Collin County runs a very efficient, constitutional operation here … [lawsuits] are pretty well knocked out the first time they are filed.”