Sheriff: Jail packed, phones busy

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Written by Publishing Team

Feb. 22—Henderson County Sheriff Botie Hillhouse told the Athens Kiwanis, Tuesday, that last year was busy, but the pace has even picked up a little in early 2022.

He said the jail population was 457 on Tuesday, almost filling the facility’s 508 bed capacity. The average, daily, jail population last year was 413.

“This is probably the fullest I’ve ever seen our jail, right now,” Hillhouse said. “Part of that is because of the contract inmates that we have.”

Those are prisoners held in Athens for other counties.

“I was able to bring in, for 2021, over $1.8 million back to Henderson County, contracting those inmates,” he said. “When you think about it, I’ve got a $6 million budget to operate the jail and if I can bring back almost $2 million by housing contract inmates, that’s good.”

HCSO dispatchers work day and night fielding calls, many concerning emergency situations, Hillhouse said. They took more than 57,000 calls for service last year including 35,000 911 calls.

“Dispatcher is one of the most stressful jobs at the sheriff’s office,” he said. “You really don’t think about all they have to go through.”

Often, there are only two on duty to take the calls, at he most three.

HCSO deputies each cover a wide area of ​​the more than 900 square miles, when on patrol. Hillhouse said their average response time last year was 13 minutes.

He said he asked Commissioners Court to fund eight new law enforcement positions. Although he was given approval, filling the spots hasn’t been easy.

“Right now, finding peace officers in the state of Texas is very, very hard,” Hillhouse said. “We’re struggling to do it and it’s not just in Henderson County.”

He also has several current openings in the jail division.

“What I like to do with new employees is hire them as jailers and work them in the jail division,” he said.

If they do well there and are interested, they might move into the patrol division. Hillhouse said he spent time in the detention ranks when he began his stay with the department in 1998.

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