We know Sheriff Adrian Garcia has a plan to fix problems with the Harris County jails. He’s been up front about what he wants to do, and he’s helped create the position of “jail czar”, who is tasked with finding ways to reduce the jail population for the long term. As such, I presume, and I hope, that this is being viewed as a short term solution only.
Sheriff Adrian Garcia wants to spend $16.5 million to house up to 2,100 inmates in four other Texas county jails for six months, part of his plan to alleviate overcrowding in Harris County lockups while trimming overtime and transportation costs.
Several members of the Commissioners Court expressed support for the initiative Monday, noting that although the new contracts average $5 more per day per inmate than the existing contract to house up to 1,800 inmates in Louisiana jails, the higher costs will be offset by savings in reduced overtime, medical and transportation costs.
On Sunday, there were 1,046 inmates from Harris County in Louisiana at the cost of $38 per prisoner per day, but that does not include transportation and medical care. Those jails accept only minimum-security prisoners, the sheriff added.
The new contracts with Dickens, Bowie, Newton and Jefferson counties set for approval by the court today range from $42.25 to $45 per inmate per day, and include transportation and medical costs. All categories of prisoners will be accepted, Garcia said.
Garcia said he expects the majority of Harris County inmates sent to the four in-state jails will be those convicted, sentenced and awaiting transfer to a Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison. Also expected to be transferred are those convicted of a state jail felony, but plea bargained to serve their sentence in county jail. Late last month, there were 395 inmates awaiting transfer to state prison and 1,295 serving state jail offenses.
“The real win here is … we’re trying to find ways to deal with the overcrowding situation and we’re trying to partner with surrounding counties so we can get TDCJ paper-ready inmates“ transferred to state prison, Garcia said. ‘‘Obviously, any population we can relieve from here is going to be a win, a plus, and take pressure off our operations.”
The request has now been approved by the Court. As the first story notes, overtime costs last year were $30 million, so this is certainly a cheaper option. It’s likely to be cheaper than the Louisiana option was as well, given that transportation and medical costs are included. And it certainly makes more sense to ship out inmates that are supposed to be in state jails, rather than minimum security inmates. All well and good, but the ultimate goal has to be to eliminate these costs, by reducing the county’s jail population to the point where outsourcing is no longer needed. As long as we’re working towards that goal, and everyone is doing their part, then this is okay. If it becomes a substitute for reducing the overall jail population, then it’s not. This appropriation is for six months, and while we certainly won’t have problems fixed by then, I do hope we’ll be able to show some progress.
UPDATE: Stace has more.