The Dallas County Sheriff’s Department is charged with the care, control and custody of individuals who have committed a crime. People charged with these offenses range from a Class “C” misdemeanor (usually outstanding traffic citation) to capital murder.
There are three types of individuals incarcerated in the Dallas County Jail:
Individuals who did not post bail and are awaiting court.
Individuals who had court and are waiting to be transferred to state/federal prison.
Individuals who are summoned by a judge to appear in court from another detention facility.
There are six detention facilities within the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department. These facilities can house more than 7,100 inmates with a detention staff of 900 employees. The Dallas County detention facilities are self sufficient and operate 24-hours a day 365 days a year.
Located within the Lew Sterrett Justice Center, the West Tower has 132 tanks and 25 single cells. It can house up to 1,530 male inmates.
The West Tower, a mental housing facility, houses a variety of classifications besides medium and maximum custody inmates. These classifications include: Class “C”s, Trustee, Infirmary, lower bunk medical restriction, close behavioral observation, suicidal, HIV positive, homosexual and accused child molesters, crisis stabilization, protective custody, admin custody, psychological assessment program, and substance abuse. Inmates are housed accordingly.
This facility, also known as South Tower, is the department’s first direct supervision facility (meaning the detention officers work inside the actual housing unit with the inmates). The construction of this facility was completed in spring of 2008. Inmate capacity for this facility is 2,304.
Sheriff Jim Bowles dedicated this detention center to the memory of Suzanne Lee Kays back in 1995. Deputy Kays was killed in the line of duty on January 4, 1989, just six days after graduating from the sheriff’s academy.
The George Allen Jail is located downtown across from the “Old Red Courthouse”. This detention facility, also known as the government center, is currently depopulated. The facility housed its first inmate in 1966. With a population of 800 inmates this was the county’s main jail which sits at the top of the George Allen Courthouse until the Lew Sterrett Justice Center was completed in 1983.
“The Old Jail”:
Across from Dealy Plaza, stands a building that was constructed in 1913 and 1914. The Dallas County Criminal Courts Building and jail, which is on the corner of Main Street and Houston Street, and across from the 1890 Dallas County Courthouse known today as “Old Red.”
“The Old Jail”, which is now closed, used to be in the upper floors of the Criminal Courts Building.
It was originally thought to be an escape-proof jail since it was in a high-rise building, but several escapes took place when it was open, including some members of Clyde Barrow’s notorious gang.
Jack Ruby became a so called “guest” of the “Old Jail,” when he was caught on film shooting Lee Harvey Oswald. Lee Harvey Oswald was detained by the City of Dallas Police Department until he was charged with felony murder, for the murder of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Oswald was being transferred into the County’s custody when he was shot by Jack Ruby. Ruby was immediately taken into custody.
When the “Old Jail” was constructed, Dallas County still participated in hangings. Executions on gallows were conducted outside until the “Old Jail” was complete. “Death Row” prisoners were then hanged inside the “Old Jail” until the mid-1920’s.