No more waiting! Harris Co. Jail ordered to book inmates in faster

Sarah Rafique Image
Thursday, September 8, 2022
No more waiting! Harris Co. Jail ordered to book inmates in faster
ABC13 sources confirm the Harris County Jail was issued a notice of non-compliance over taking too long to process incoming inmates.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Harris County Jail is in trouble for taking too long to get inmates into the jail. It's a problem 13 Investigates exposed just 10 days ago.

ABC13 sources confirm the jail was issued a notice of non-compliance by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards late Wednesday afternoon.

Rules governing Texas jails require new inmates to get to a housing unit within two days.

Our investigation found inmates waiting in these open holding areas for far longer. According to our 13 Investigates analysis, more than 550 of the 2,043 inmates brought to the jail in July had to wait longer than the mandated 48 hours.

See the 13 Investigates report here.

Ted Oberg and our investigates team found it is a problem blamed partly on overcrowding and partly on slowdowns at the courthouse. The jail will be required to fix the issue and be re-inspected.

If they can't speed up the process, it could require sending more inmates out of the county at a multi-million dollar cost to taxpayers.

A copy of the "notice of non-compliance," obtained by 13 Investigates, lists dozens of inmates kept for more than 48 hours. The notice even cites one inmate booked on a criminal mischief charge for allegedly breaking a neighbor's plant. That inmate was kept waiting for 99 hours, which is four days, in mid-August before her case was dismissed.

Read the notice - on a mobile device? Click here to open.

In a statement Thursday afternoon, the Harris County Sheriff's Office said:

"Harris County's backlog of pending criminal cases has swelled since 2017, when Hurricane Harvey caused major structural damage to the courthouse building. The backlog continued to grow during the pandemic, as public health concerns prevented courts from conducting in-person hearings and trials at their usual pace.

There are currently 10,343 people housed in the jail, while an additional 597 have been sent to a jail in La Salle Parish, La. This represents the first time the jail population has exceeded 10,000 in over a decade. Nearly half of the people currently in custody are charged with violent crimes.

Harris County recently signed a contract to begin housing up to 600 more people at a jail facility in Garza County.
The introduction of telemedicine, additional health care staff, and other steps are also being taken to expedite medical and mental health screenings during the booking process.

In addition, Harris County Commissioners Court has made significant investments to tackle the criminal courts case backlog."

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