Houston, Harris County Continue Negotiations Over Jail System

(File photo illustration)
The city and county are getting closer to a joint processing center for jail inmates. City councilmembers will soon vote on a financial stake in the plans for a new intake facility.

Last week, Harris County Commissioners authorized the county to seek proposals for a new city-county inmate processing center, which could be located near the county jail on Baker Street.

This week, the City of Houston is firming up its commitment to the plan with a presentation to city councilmembers on how the city would benefit from the joint facility.

City of Houston Chief Development Officer Andy Icken says more than 50 percent of inmates in the city jail are actually county prisoners.

"These folks stay in the city jail for typically up to 24 hours and then we bring them over as space is available in the processing system. And then the judicial system begins from that point."

The idea of a joint processing center has been floating around for a number of years, but fell apart in 2007 when voters turned down a county bond proposal to pay for the facility.

Mayor Annise Parker says the joint facility will be less expensive for the city in the long term.

"Right now, we are taking care of their prisoners. They will, ultimately if we get out of the jail business, be taking some of our prisoners. And we will work out an appropriate cost for that."

Right now, the city spends $30 million a year to maintain its jail.

The mayor did not specify how much the city will contribute toward the joint facility, but a presentation her office made to councilmembers suggests one source of funding could be $25 million in public safety bonds that voters approved last year.

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Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...