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Posts Tagged ‘jails’

Ogg proposes marijuana prosecution reforms

I like the sound of this. Kim Ogg, the Democratic nominee for Harris County district attorney, said Friday she will ticket and enforce community service for, instead of arrest and jail, thousands of people arrested each year in Houston for low-level marijuana possession. “We can save up to 10 million dollars a year, folks,” Ogg […]

Vaping in jail

Not sure how I feel about this. As a way to allow some inmates to get their nicotine fix and sheriffs to shore up tight budgets, county jails across the country have begun selling electronic cigarettes. Though the trend has largely bypassed Texas, jail officials say that could change as sheriffs begin to warm up […]

Walking a mile in their ankle monitors

You have to admire this kind of dedication to one’s office. Though she has never been convicted of a crime, Marsha McLane is having her every movement these days tracked by a satellite-monitored anklet, just like thousands of ex-cons in Texas. Charged with rebuilding a little-known state agency that supervises high-risk sex offenders, she is […]

Construction of joint processing center and forensics facility approved to begin

Good. Several major building projects – including a state-of-the-art facility for the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences and a voter-approved jail inmate processing center – officially are in the pipeline after Commissioners Court on Tuesday approved a $305 million capital improvement program. [...] At the top of the list is the $100 million city-county […]

Medicaid expansion: Still a great deal, especially for cities

So many uninsured people could get covered if Medicaid expansion were universal instead of just here and there. Expanding Medicaid under the new health care law would do a lot to slash the number of uninsured people, at least in some of the nation’s largest cities, according to a new report. A review of 14 […]

Almost nobody is following Rick Perry’s lead in defying the Prison Rape Elimination Act

Emily dePrang has the story. Back in March, Gov. Rick Perry sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder declaring his intent to defy a federal law designed to reduce sexual assault in prison. It was a very Perry letter, slinging around terms like “ridiculous” and “unacceptable” and “costly regulatory mess.” But perhaps the […]

We really should comply with the Prison Rape Elimination Act

It’s the right thing to do, and it’s the law. During a House County Affairs Committee hearing Monday, local sheriffs said the most problematic provision of the 2003 law is a requirement that minors be housed separately from adult prison and jail populations. Since Texas is one of only 10 states that classifies 17-year-olds as […]

Perry says Texas will not comply with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act

Amazing the number of laws Rick Perry refuses to obey, isn’t it? More than a decade after the Prison Rape Elimination Act unanimously passed Congress, federal standards for implementation of the law have been finalized. Now, Gov. Rick Perry and some prison reform advocates are at odds over what those standards mean for Texas lockups […]

Inmates and Medicaid

Other states are doing what Texas has declined to do. Being arrested in Chicago for, say, drug possession or assault gets you sent to the Cook County Jail to be fingerprinted, photographed and X-rayed. You’ll also get help applying for health insurance. At least six states and counties from Maryland to Oregon’s Multnomah are getting […]

We still need to reduce inmate headcount

The Harris County jail’s population is down from historic highs, but with the usual summer uptick coming, Sheriff Adrian Garcia has asked for a waiver to make some more beds available. State officials have rejected a request from Sheriff Adrian Garcia to increase the capacity of the Harris County Jail and said local leaders have […]

Followup on that report about sexual assault in the Harris County jail

Last month, I blogged about a report by the Justice Department that alleged a high rate of sexual assault in one of the Harris County jail buildings. Sheriff Adrian Garcia, who testified about the report in Congress to a panel of citizen correctional experts, was sharply critical of the study’s methodology. Click the link for […]

Perry and pot

Haul out your blind squirrels and acorns cliches. Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Thursday that he favors decriminalizing marijuana use and lessening punishment for minor offenders as the nation moves toward a more moderate approach to pot use and two states have legalized the drug. Perry’s comments surprised some, since the governor has repeatedly criticized […]

On pot and prosecutions

I’m sure you’ve heard about President Obama’s remarks that marijuana isn’t really more harmful than alcohol. There’s plenty of evidence to back that assertion, but Harris County DA Devon Anderson strongly disagreed with him anyway. President Barack Obama’s recently published remarks calling marijuana less dangerous than alcohol has prompted Harris County’s District Attorney to release […]

If you want to be treated for mental illness, go to jail

You’ve heard it said that the Harris County Jail is the largest mental health facility in Texas. Here’s a great story in the Observer by Emily DePrang that illustrates what that really means. Of the 9,000 or so inmates here, more than a quarter take medication for mental illness, meaning that many days, this jail […]

Sexual assault in the Harris County jail

This sounds very bad, but there are some questions about how the numbers were determined. Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, defending his staff against a federal study that found startling levels of sexual abuse at one of his jails, testified Wednesday that his sprawling corrections system was constantly working to better protect inmates. Garcia was […]

The new justice complex

It’s a big deal. Houston leaders are in the early stages of planning a new police headquarters and courthouse complex that Mayor Annise Parker said could be the most important project on which she will work during her six-year tenure. There is little question the city’s criminal justice facilities are fading. Houston’s central jail at […]

County jail diversion program moving forward

News like this is always welcome. Harris County is moving forward with a much-anticipated jail diversion program aimed at reducing the soaring number – and the associated cost – of mentally ill residents who repeatedly cycle through the county lockup. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett this week announced his pick to head the four-year pilot […]

Probation and drug testing update

Sounds like good news. Late last summer, the director of the Harris County Community Supervision and Corrections Department resigned, and the Harris County District Attorney’s office said it would stop using the agency’s drug tests as evidence after revelations that its overburdened drug-testing program had led to the wrongful jailing of some probationers and people […]

More on the jail’s new non-discrimination policy

Here’s the Chron story on the new non-discrimination policy that was implemented at the Harris County Jail. Crafted in the last 16 months with input from local and national LGBT community leaders and groups, it strictly prohibits “discrimination or harassment of any kind based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” and provides for the special […]

The jail’s new non-discrimination policy

Not sure why I haven’t seen this story in the Chronicle. The sheriff of Houston’s Harris County has adopted a sweeping policy designed to protect and guarantee equal treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender inmates, including allowing transgender individuals to be housed based on the gender they identify with instead of their biological sex. […]

Precinct analysis: The Dome and the jail

Now that precinct data is out, the Chron has an updated take on what sunk the Astrodome referendum. Overall, 53.4 percent of Harris County voters rejected the bond issue that would have renovated the long-vacant Dome into a convention and exhibit space. In Houston, 50.1 percent of the voters turned it down, while in unincorporated […]

It always comes down to the IT guys

The joint processing center that’s on the Harris County ballot this year will need a new computer system to fully realize its gains. The so-called “jail management system,” which the Sheriff’s Office hopes will be up and running at least a year before the processing center would open, will allow the jail to track the […]

What’s on the agenda for Mayor Parker in her third term

Now that Mayor Parker has been safely re-elected, with a better-than-expected margin, what does she plan to do from here? A triumphant Parker on Tuesday lauded her “decisive” victory but quickly shifted her focus to the coming two years, listing her third-term priorities as jobs, economic development, rebuilding streets and drainage, and financial accountability. “There […]

Election results: Harris County

The big story: RIP, Astrodome. A $217 million bond measure to fund a massive Astrodome renovation failed by several percentage points, a decision expected to doom it to the wrecking ball. Proposition 2 would have allowed Harris County to issue up to $217 million in bonds to turn the beloved but bedraggled stadium into a […]

Interview with County Judge Ed Emmett

In addition to all of the races for local office and the nine constitutional amendments, there are two county referenda on the ballot this fall. One is the Astrodome proposition, with which I trust you are familiar. The other is for the joint inmate processing facility, which will allow the county to more efficiently deal […]

Endorsement watch: For the joint processing center

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, […]

Moving the focus back to un-crowding the jails

This is a positive development. Newly appointed Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson on Wednesday pledged to curb the increasing number of low-level felons being sentenced to serve misdemeanor time in the county jail rather than going to prison, known as a “12.44a” sentence, saying she will encourage her prosecutors to push rehabilitation. There has […]

Whitmire weighs in on Harris jail population

State Sen. John Whitmire has pushed back on some of the explanations given for the recent uptick in the Harris County jail population, beginning with the claim that it’s due to state jails taking longer than usual to pick up new inmates. Noting the state prison system has “7,000 empty beds today,” Whitmire said that […]

More on Kim Ogg

Here’s the full Chron story about Kim Ogg’s declaration that she will run for Harris County DA as a Democrat in 2014. “I have the varied experience in policy, in prevention and in prosecution that I think gives me a broad overview of the system,” Ogg told reporters on the steps of the historic 1910 […]

Inmate processing center polls favorably

The other issue on the county ballot appears to be in good shape. Results from a recent KUHF-KHOU 11 News poll suggest strong voter support for a $70 million November bond issue for a city-county inmate processing center. The poll, conducted by Rice University political science professor Bob Stein, found 58 percent of respondents support […]

We have to worry about jail overcrowding again

Not good. After a nearly two-year hiatus, the Harris County jail population is nearing capacity, prompting officials to again consider whether to ship some inmates to out-of-state lockups. The latest jail population report shows the total number of detainees dropped significantly from 2009 to the end of 2011, when the population finally dipped below the […]

One more ballot item

In addition to the Astrodome and (maybe) Early To Rise referenda, Harris County voters will also get to decide on a jail bond referendum. From the preview story on Tuesday: Harris County Commissioners Court on Tuesday also is expected to order a $70 million bond election for a long-discussed facility to process inmates arrested by […]

No increase in jail population as yet

Good to hear. When Harris County District Attorney Mike Anderson toppled incumbent Pat Lykos in last year’s Republican primary, some county budget hawks got fidgety. The campaign’s central issue, after all, was Anderson’s opposition to a Lykos policy that treated cases with drug residue of less than 1/100th of a gram as misdemeanors. Lykos was […]

The next step to closing the city jail

The sobering center was Step 1. Step 2 is a joint processing center with the county, and that is now closer to happening. With backing from the city of Houston, Harris County is reviving a long-discussed plan to build a facility to process inmates into the county jail, and to offer the mental health services […]