July 30, 2005
Sheriff to do something about crowded jails

Some action on the overcrowded jail front: Sheriff Tommy Thomas is going to ask for more monry to get more jailers.

More than half of the 1,300 Harris County Jail inmates sleeping on mattresses on the floor because of crowding will have bunks by early next week, Sheriff Tommy Thomas said Friday.

The remaining 550 prisoners will get beds in the coming months as the sheriff's department begins to rely on overtime and new hires to work in areas of the jail closed because of staffing shortages, Thomas said.

But improved conditions will come at a price. The sheriff's department will ask Commissioners Court at its Aug. 9 meeting for additional funds to pay overtime for jail employees.

In the coming months, the department may ask the court for as much as $8 million to hire more than 150 corrections officers, Chief Deputy Mike Smith, who oversees the jail, told the county's criminal justice committee.

I'll say it one more time: Harris County has more than enough cash reserves (PDF) to afford that.

Swelling inmate populations will plague the county, as well as the state, for years to come, Thomas said.

In the short term, the county will hire more officers and look for ways to reduce the inmate population.

The long-term solution, several officials said, may be to build more jails, including inexpensive, barracks-like facilities in outlying areas.

You want to reduce the inmate population, Scott has a good suggestion for you.

However long it took him to pay attention to the problem, I applaud Sheriff Thomas for taking action. Now make sure what you do isn't just a Band-Aid, and maybe we can avoid this sort of thing in the future.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 30, 2005 to Crime and Punishment | TrackBack