Harris County officials effectively have ruled out the idea of leasing a vacant jail in Galveston to reduce the number of inmates sent to Louisiana, saying it would be too hard to staff the facility and bring it up to current jail standards.
Instead, the Commissioners Court on Tuesday approved one-year contracts with three Louisiana parishes to house up to 1,000 inmates at a cost of up to $15 million. The county already pays a private facility in northeast Louisiana to hold up to 730 prisoners.
County Judge Ed Emmett floated the idea of leasing the Galveston jail last month when the Sheriff's Office first asked for permission to send more inmates out of state. He said he worried about how hard it was for families and attorneys to visit prisoners hundreds of miles away from Harris County.
On Tuesday, however, Emmett said the idea was well-nigh dead.
"We were hopeful that, maybe, the Commission on Jail Standards would say it was a wonderful place, but I have a feeling that that's not really the case," he said after the Commissioners Court meeting.
County leaders will discuss options for permanently easing jail overcrowding at a meeting on capital improvement projects later this month and at its mid-year budget review in September, Budget Officer Dick Raycraft said.