Sheriff, commissioner take sides over jail budget

August 18, 2010 1:03:31 PM PDT
With serious overcrowding in the Harris County Jail, Sheriff Adrian Garcia's claim that the jail is grossly understaffed is being met with skepticism. Sheriff Garcia says a recent manpower analysis showed detention operations within Harris County were short by 350 people. The Harris County Commissioner isn't so sure hiring more personnel is the answer.

"We've given the sheriff a tremendous amount of flexibility as far as outsourcing some of those inmates to other Texas counties and to the state of Louisiana," said Commissioner Steve Radack.

While Texas counties are getting most of the overflow business, Radack believes it's much cheaper to send these inmates out of state.

"Frankly, if they go to Louisiana, it is cheaper than what it costs is to house them in our own jail," Radack said.

A Harris County Sheriff's Office spokesperson tells Eyewitness News that the rates in Louisiana fluctuate on a daily basis.

"Right now, Louisiana generally charges about $28 a day for a bed. In Harris County, it costs us $42 a day per inmate," said spokesperson Christina Garza.

She says the problem is each jail has its own set of rules as to what types of inmates it will take.

"They're allowed to use their own discretion. That's why we have to shop around for jail space," Garza said.

Sheriff Garcia has decided to send fewer inmates to Louisiana. There are anywhere between 550 to 600 Harris County inmates housed in Louisiana jails each year compared to the 750 housed in other Texas counties.

The sheriff will be meeting with Harris County commissioners next month for a midyear budget review and will make staffing recommendations.

Watch Eyewitness News this afternoon for a full report.


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