Shipping More Prisoners to Louisiana Will Have to Wait

Harris county commissioners delay a request by the sheriff's department to ship another one thousand prisoners to private facilities in Louisana in an effort to ease inmate overcrowding. County Judge Ed Emmett said he is not convinced that a closer site cannot be found. Pat Hernandez has the story.
Last week, Commissioners approved a request to send 130 inmates to Louisiana at a cost of $38 dollars per inmate per day. It left open sending upwards of a thousand more inmates to other private lock-ups in the Bayou State on an add needed basis.

Following a brief discussion, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett asked Mike Smith, the chief deputy for detention command.

"Is there a reason we have to do this today? The population is growing and we have to stay within our cell variances. We could put it off for two weeks but that would be pushing it pretty hard at that point in time if we can act immediately. I tell you what, I'd like to do that."

Harris County is authorized to jail a maximum 94,000 inmates, but the state jail commission has restrictions on allowing the inmate population exceed the maximum. Judge Emmett thinks more questions need to be answered.

"Number one, I think we need to get a far better handle of how many inmates we have, why do we have them. I mentioned the pre-adjudication. A lot of people are not bonding out, so they're being held until their trials. Obviously, we take alot of prisoners from the city that come into the Harris County Jail. That's part of our job and we do it."

Harris County already incarcerates over 700 inmates in Louisiana at a cost of nine million dollars a year. That cost would be upwards of $24 million if the request to send one thousand more was approved.

"Once you start sending people across state lines, it makes it that much harder for families to go visit them, and it's just a concern that it seemed to be too peace meal. So, I wanted to spend two weeks and go back and say okay what are we really doing, and I really would like to look at some other facilities closer by."

Pat Hernandez, KUHF- Houston Public Radio News.

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...