Harris County Jail still out of compliance with state rules after quarterly meeting in Austin

Daniela Hurtado Image
Friday, February 2, 2024
Harris County Jail issues: Texas Commission on Jail Standards' meeting resulted in no changes to compliance status
There has been a strong appeal for transparency over incidents at the Harris County Jail. The county allocates $50 million in taxpayer money each year to outsource inmates from our jail to other prisons in Texas and other states.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- As ABC13 monitors the situation at the Harris County Jail, the Jail Standards Commission held its quarterly meeting in Austin on Thursday, and the update is not good.

While Harris County has shown some improvements with booking inmates within 48 hours, they're at the same time taking steps backwards in terms of how long inmates are staying on average at the jail, jail leaders said during Thursday's meeting.

According to the assistant chief of detentions command at the Harris County Sheriff's Office, Commander Phillip Bosquez, the current length of stay at the jail is now 197 days. For perspective, the state average for length of stay at other jails is 46 to 56 days.

Bosquez says they'll tackle the issue in chunks, pointing to the potential of reducing it in 30-day increments.

The director of the jail standards commission, Brandon Wood, calls this concerning and says the jail is going in the wrong direction after their numbers increased since the last quarterly meeting held in November.

The county jail has been in the news for a lot of things in the recent year, including long wait times for processing and jail deaths.

A big call for transparency has been made by the community when it comes to the incidents at the jail. Jail representatives confirmed that 532 body-worn cameras have now been added for detention officers.

Speaking of officers, staffing and jail capacity continue to be a problem.

Annually, $50 million of taxpayer money is being dished out by the county to outsource inmates from the jail to other facilities in Texas and other states.

One of the issues posed by the county officials during the meeting is the number of inmates that should be in state facilities and not in the county jail. At last count, officials say about 1,500 inmates should be at other facilities for various reasons.

In fact, it's not something that is in the jail's control, including the hospital wait time. Officials say since they can't move inmates out to those facilities since it's using their resources.

The jail database shows that 1,028 inmates have been outsourced.

Representatives say outsourcing is the most expensive thing the county does, and their goal is to minimize the population at the jail.

Officials say additional courts have been added to move cases through the court system quicker and help reduce the population.

ABC13 sent out a request for comment to the sheriff's office about this and the outsourcing numbers going up at the time of publishing, but no response has been received.

For updates on this story, follow Daniela Hurtado on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.