HPD resumes arresting all violators

April 19, 2010 4:47:56 PM PDT
The backlog at the Harris County's Inmate Processing Center was over by Saturday afternoon, but the Houston Police Department is still calling the county every two hours to see how many inmates it can handle and is transferring them accordingly.

On Friday, the Houston Police Department announced it would stop arresting people who broke certain types of laws because of overcrowding at the facility. The restrictions lasted for a day.

But many are still not sure how long it be before another restriction on arrests is enforced.

When the processing center was built back in 1991, it was meant to handle just under 200 inmates a day. Now, roughly 400 are processed here every day.

Taking in almost twice as many prisoners as the center is capable of holding becomes a matter of safety. It's dangerous, not only for the inmates, but also for the officers who work here.

"Tensions get high; it gets hot," Harris County Sheriff's Office Lt. M. Lindsay said. "There are many times when we have to open the doors and put fans in front of them just to help keep these inmates cooled off. Fights start."

Instead of having all the inmates show up at one time- those transfer times are now staggered as a result of last week's logjam. While stemming the flow of inmates in order to ease overcrowding is working, However, some warn the new system is nothing more than a bandage.

"Right now, we sit down and do whatever needs to be done to build that city-county inmate processing center," Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos said. "We can't delay another second on that."

But a brand new central intake unit will cost money -- not only to build but to maintain.

Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack says given the state of the economy, moving forward with that would be a bad idea.

"There's not going to be any instant relief there," he said. "So I think what we need to do is take a closer look at a way to better manage the prisoners we have."

Three years ago, voters rejected a bond proposal that would have paid for one, and Taxpayer Chris Crowder isn't sure he'd give it a second look.

"I'd have to see what the plan would be," he said. "How the building would be made and how they'd run it and who would run it."

Harris County commissioners are expected to vote in June whether to approve a new jail project. If it passes, the issue could be put before voters in November.

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