Proposition 1 on Harris County ballot puts new inmate facility in hands of voters

Voters are being asked to consider a $70 million bond package to build a new justice center facility for Harris County and Houston
November 4, 2013 4:50:46 PM PST
As you hit the polls Tuesday, it's not just candidates you're deciding on, there are also some propositions on the ballot. Prop 1 is a bond proposal for a new multi-million dollar justice center facility.

The Harris County Inmate Processing Center books more than 320 prisoners a day, and the sheriff's office claims the more than 20-year-old building's layout makes it inefficient.

"We have a lot of folks that come in for minor offenses. Well they're here for the duration, just like someone who is booked on a robbery or murder charge," Harris County Sheriff's Office Maj. Debra Schmidt said.

So the county is asking for voters to approve Prop 1, a $70 million bond package to pay for most of the new justice system facility. They claim it would process inmates faster, improving public safety.

"It will allow us to return police officers and deputies back to the streets faster," Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia said.

Some prisoners require an evaluation from a mental health professional, but they're not always on site.

"Until we can get the a MHMRA person over here to evaluate them, so these are just short-term stay. They are usually just in here for an hour, two hours, until we can get them out of there and get them moved on through the process," a detention officer told Eyewitness News.

The new facility would have offices for mental health professionals.

"We have had a lot of progress with regards to contending with the mentally ill. As an example, homelessness; we want to make sure we continue that progress," Garcia said.

If the $70 million is approved by voters, the new center would be a joint use facility, so the city of Houston also will contribute $30 million.

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