City jail reaches capacity on inmates

April 16, 2010 4:46:54 PM PDT
There are so many inmates in the Houston city jail, police have been ordered to stop arresting people who break certain types of laws. Jail overcrowding is now having a direct impact on the streets. Police will be selective on the people they arrest. As an analogy, consider the Harris County jail a popular hotel. There are rooms available, but there's a long line at the reservation desk with people checking in. That check-in desk is the jail inmate processing center and it's really strained right now.

In the City of Houston jails, we have a capacity of 400 inmates. There are currently 360 inmates housed there.

The city jail feeds prisoners to the Harris County jail, and the maximum capacity at the inmate processing center is 269. We're told by Houston police that the backup in the city jails is increasing exponentially at a rate of about 30 inmates every two hours. That's how frequently the transfers usually occur.

"It's always been a strained situation in the inmate processing center of the Harris County jail," said Harris County Sheriff's Department spokesperson Alan Bernstein. "What's changed is a series of meetings over the last few weeks, triggered by the fact the Sheriff Garcia wants to be more strict and more dedicated than ever to actually complying to the state standards that limit how many people we can have in the holdovers in the booking area."

Bernstein said, "We've actually been reducing the amount of people coming into the jail, or smoothing out the number of people with each arrival from HPD for a couple of weeks now and there have been a couple of weeks of preparation for started at 5am Thursday." Houston police say the worst offenders ? the DUIs, the felony cases, the people arrested on serious criminal charges will still be allowed to the Harris County jail. They will be processed in. The less serious cases may also be arrested, but those people may find themselves sitting around the Houston city jail for a while longer until all this is worked out.

All this happens at a time when the Harris County jail will undergo another state jail inspection. As timing will have it, there will be an item presented to Harris County commissioners in June about a joint city-county inmate processing center. That would be about a $300 million facility.


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