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Posts Tagged ‘jails’

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 […]

Treating rather than jailing the mentally ill

Very good news. Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia and his medical staff wholeheartedly support a bill filed this week to reduce recidivism by the mentally ill who wind up in the county jail, a $5 million pilot program to transition them into community treatment facilities. “These individuals are principally in our custody because they are […]

Sobering center opens up

Good. Mayor Annise Parker joined council members on Thursday to unveil the innovative Houston Recovery Center, a place where people who are intoxicated can sober up instead of being arrested. Officials say there’s only one other similar facility in Texas. “Turns out that a significant percentage of the people we were putting in jail, were […]

I got those empty prison cell blues

There’s a lot of excess prison capacity around the state, which is a big problem for a lot of communities that once thought building prisons, to be operated by private entities, would be a boon for them. Just over a decade ago, prisons were a growth industry, and Texas was the undisputed king. The state […]

Yes, Ed Emmett supports Medicaid expansion

As I’m sure you’re aware, I’ve been banging the drum pretty much nonstop for Medicaid expansion. I see it not only as a state issue but a county issue as well, which is why I’ve made a big deal about what Harris County is or isn’t doing about it. I haven’t seen the subject come […]

Report recommends against privatizing the Harris County jail

Very good news. Privatizing the Harris County jail would be risky and may not result in savings, according to an internal county memo recommending that Commissioners Court keep the state’s largest lockup in Sheriff Adrian Garcia’s hands. The confidential Feb. 11 memo, obtained by the Houston Chronicle, comes after more than a year of study […]

City-county cooperation

It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it? At 9:27 p.m. on Election Day, when it was clear a Metro referendum crucial to both of their road-building budgets had passed, Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack’s phone buzzed with a text message from Houston Mayor Annise Parker: “Maybe we can tackle world peace next.” The note hinted at […]

Jail privatization update

Grits, from about two weeks ago: In a conference call last week with investors (see the transcript), Corrections Corporation of America said it expects to find out by next spring whether they will receive a contract to operate the Harris County Jail. Said President and CEO David Hininger: The final update I wanted to give […]