Does anyone really think that privatizing the Harris County Jail would be a good idea?
The suggestion comes from Commissioner Steve Radack, who said the item is a way for the county to examine all ways of cutting costs as budget cuts take hold and scores of county workers are laid off.
“We need to look at trying to save taxpayers’ money and try to see if there’s a cheaper way of operating the Harris County jails,” he said. “I think the best way to do that is to put the request for proposals out on the street to see who’s interested and what their proposals are.”
The resulting ideas could result in a limited contract — for food or medical services, for instance — or total privatization, Radack said.
Anybody got a phone number for Accenture handy? I’m sure they’ll be happy to do a proposal.
County Judge Ed Emmett said it never hurts to seek efficiencies, but said he has reservations about the proposal.
“I wouldn’t be in favor of moving forward at all until somebody comes forward and says, ‘This is why privatization would be good,’ and gives me some concrete examples,” Emmett said. “Clearly, it would be a massive change that would be undertaken neither lightly nor quickly. … It’s one thing to say we’re going to privatize a jail in a very small rural setting, but to talk about a jail like ours, where not only is it a jail but it’s currently the largest mental health facility in the state of Texas — this is a large undertaking.”
As Grits points out, any savings would likely come from the privatizer paying guards less. Hey, that profit margin has to come from somewhere. Given the poor history of the jail with things like inmate deaths, sanitation, and access to health care back when Radack’s buddy Tommy Thomas was running things, this does not sound like a recipe for success to me. This proposal is really just another attack by Radack on Sheriff Adrian Garcia, since Radack never gave a damn about costs before Garcia’s election in 2008. Hopefully, this idea will get the quick burial it deserves.