An easy call.
[V]oters should consider themselves fortunate that they can easily cut $25 million in unnecessary spending from the city’s annual budget by voting for the Joint Processing Center on Election Day.
The overlapping criminal justice duties of Houston and Harris County have been the target of the good governance crowd for several years, but the time is finally right to end this duplication of services. The once-combative relationship between the county and city has turned into a cooperative swoon. Both sides are ready to let the experts at the Harris County Sheriff’s Office deal with prisoners and give the sheriff a facility that fits the needs of a changing culture in criminal justice. It is a deal that benefits everyone, especially taxpayers.
The new processing center would let Houston close its jails and send prisoners directly to the county, freeing up police officers to patrol the streets. Most of those prisoners already could be sent to the county under the law. The remaining folks would either stay in the new processing center’s 72-hour beds for Class C misdemeanors or the city’s new sobering center for public intoxication cases.
Voters in 2007 and 2009 rejected similar initiatives for a central processing center, scared off by sticker shock and the prospect of adding even more jail cells. The county and city have learned from their past errors, and this year’s bond proposal costs less than half of the 2009 plan, with only additional short-term beds.
The $70 million bond for the Joint Processing Center is a smart investment, eliminating unnecessary overlap between the city and county. It sets city-county relations in the right direction. We hope to soon see our courts get on the right track, as well.
I’ve got an interview with County Judge Ed Emmett set to run on Wednesday in which he says he isn’t aware of any opposition to this proposition. For good reason, I think – it’s a win all around, probably why it polls well. The Chron suggests that maybe the presence of this center will encourage greater use of personal recognizance bonds. I don’t know if the judges will make that connection or not, but this is worth supporting regardless.