Harris County jail overcrowding: Worse than we thought

They just found another 600 inmates in the Harris County jails that were sleeping on the floor. Darned computer glitches.

The Texas Commission on Jail Standards had found the jail in noncompliance last June, estimating that overcrowding had left nearly 1,300 inmates sleeping on mattresses on the floor.

Actually, the number sleeping on mattresses at the time of the report was closer to 1,700 to 1,900, said Terry Julian, executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.

Julian blamed the discrepancy on a “computer error.”

All right, so now we know the scope of the problem. What are we doing about it?

The Harris County Commissioners Court is expected to approve nearly $1.5 million next week for staff to open more space and ease overcrowding in the county jail, county officials told the state regulators.

Sheriff Tommy Thomas said he’s asking county commissioners Tuesday for $700,000 to fund jobs for 60 new detention officers through the end of the budget year in March.

He said he’s also seeking $750,000 in overtime pay between now and the end of September, although ongoing overtime needs are likely to run into the millions.

With more jailers on hand, the county will be able to open up more space for the burgeoning jail population, which a state official said is growing at a rate of 100 per month.

Doug Adkinson, deputy chief of staff for County Judge Robert Eckels, told Julian that county commissioners are expected to approve the funding.

It represents a first step in attacking the jail’s overcrowding. County officials are also working on a more comprehensive long-term plan that they earlier said could cost as much as $8 million. The Commissioners Court is expected to take up longer-term solutions in mid-September.

So far, so good. Long overdue, but at least it’s being taken seriously now. I’ll keep an eye out for the next updates. Earlier stuff on this story is here.

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23 Responses to Harris County jail overcrowding: Worse than we thought

  1. FedUp says:

    To anyone ever incarcerated in Harris County, these overcrowding issues are nothing new or surprising. It takes a regulatory agency to enforce compliance with standards, because after all, inmates are the seen as perhaps the lowest class of people in society. Who cares if they have to sleep on the floor – they broke the law, right? Well, maybe. Having done quite a few jail and prison sentences I can assure you that there ARE people in jail and prison that are truly innocent of their “crimes”. I can also assure you that sleeping on the floor is not the only negative aspect of overcrowding. When inmates leave incarceration, they take with them the lessons learned there. Lessons often include things like “society doesn’t care about me” , “police are abusive bigots” , “the criminal justice system is corrupt” and other similar things. The result being that inmates are released angry, resentful and bitter , increasing opposition to law enforcement and further eroding families and communities. Overcrowding only increases negative attitudes toward laws and law enforcement officials. How much money has Harris County spent on the new Baker street facility? What kind of shortsightedness leads to problems such as these? There are MANY idle cells in the Harris County detention facilities. They should either quit locking everyone up for petty, non-violent crimes, or re-open these older facilities.

  2. brandon says:

    the overcrowding at the harris county jail is outrageous. ive been in the county a couple times this year and its always taken me at least 36 hours to even make to make it up stairs because of the over crowding already occuring up there.they also pack as many people as they can into the holding tanks while you are getting booked in and it gets so hot people start to get irritated and they still refuse to do anything about the problems that occur maybe now something can be done where we dont have to be placed on floors just to sleep. i think they shouldn’t lock people up that have done anything below a class b misdemenour

  3. EnoughisEnough says:

    I was arrested 8/12/05 Thursday night, and was first taken to the Houston City Jail on Mykawa to be booked. The jailers there were very nice and helpful with any information they could offer. Within 2 hours I was booked in, seen the nurse, given meds, and in a cell (which there were plenty of spaces left)I was given a bunk with mattress and blanket. The following day I was transported to the Harris County Jail to encounter the lowest form of law officers I have ever had the displeasure of coming across. As I was waiting to go in the holding cell 4 officers jumped on a prisoner and threw him to the ground because he asked if he could use the phone, they picked him up and slammed his head against the wall several times. We were told to face the wall so we COULD NOT witness the abuse. After about 30 minutes I was placed in a holding cell which is approx. 12×16 room with 37 other females all of which were sitting elbow to elbow on all the benches and floor. There was not a single spot that did not have a person on it. There was no air or ventilation in this room just a lot of hot angry women. After being in this holding cell/ hell cell for 5 hours I was called out to finally get booked in (since my husband had already placed my bond at 5pm I knew I was simply waiting to get booked before I could be released). Once I got out to be booked I noticed a great deal of officers and medics running into the male holding cell to attend to an inmate having a seizure as the man came out on the stretcher I noticed it was the same man that the 4 officers had slammed into the wall earlier and now here he was having a seizure and a huge knot over his left eye. I was booked in and sent back to the holding cell where there were even more women in there this time, I counted 44 females in this tiny cell which still of course has no air and the only means of hydration is drinking the water that comes out from over the toilet that indeed taste like toilet/sewage. While in this cell for 8 hours and never going out except to be booked in I observed 2 inmates ask for medical attention (1 elderly lady told the officer she was having severe chest pains and was told to go sit down and one lady had a panic attack and could not breath, the officer opened the door told her to sit down and laughed and closed the door). I was finally released at 12:30pm which is 7:30 hours after making bail and 4:30 after being booked. Something needs to be done with the situation that has grown out of control at the Harris County Jail. I am one of the truly innocent people that should have never been there and I will say this has opened my eyes to how corrupt the legal system really is, especially in Harris County, TX. Is it necessary for these officers to be so rude and abusive? Why can the City officers be the exact opposite and hold the same job? If the officers do not like the job they are hired to do – QUIT!!! I am sure McDonalds would love some extra security or cashiers… I am also sure your abuse would not be tolerated in the free world, Only in the Harris County employment is this type of attitude excepted. And this taxpayer is paying your salary and I say you are not worth a dime and if I had a choice most of you would not have a job.

  4. JCF says:

    My father Ronnie is currently incarcerated in the Harris County Jail. The conditions that these people have to live in sound horrifying. I am extremely concerned if inmates are sleeping on dirty floors and the jails are over-crowding, because that interferes with a person’s health. Something needs to be done about this, and it needs to be done soon. Though I do not reside in Houston any longer, I feel that Harris County needs to do something about the jail conditions, and maybe place misdimeanors somewhere else. DO SOMETHING!!!

  5. K. Black says:

    My son is confined to a Harris County Jail. 1307 Baker street. The conditions are terrible, they are overcrowded. They are supposed to have 48 in his cell, they have about 60. It took about 2 weeks to get his meds for high blood pressure and he still does not have his meds for depression. It will soon be 2 months that he has been incarcerated. A nurse came in last week and called an inmate and said “you,ve been exposed to TB and you have to get started on medication. He had been in the cell longer that my son. I guess all 60 have been exposed. It is very frightening for me. Just visiting my son is a terrible. It is horrible at the Harris county jail. I understand that they have done crimes. Some are worst than others but they are humans. Hopefully someone can help.

  6. verne meyer says:

    I have a son in Harris co. jail.He suffers from damaged spinal injury. Has to take pain pills. He is on meds for depression.He is getting no meds-sleeping on the floor. Because he ask for a pain pill they threw him in the ‘hole’. blood was on the floor-he spent all night with a wool blanket.no mattress. He has been told that they could loose him in there if he didn’t watch what he says.They LET him be jumped by another prisoner.Then he got to spend the night in the ‘hole’ again. they let the nurse check him next morning. Damage has been done to the plate they put in his back. He is now having problems with nerves in his arms again. They have postponed his hearing twice. this story is a long one and if he lives to get out I am sure it will be made public even if he has to leave Tx.to do so.He has not been proven guilty and they can’t prove it.He has been Jailed since Sept.11 this year. They tell him that he will be there until after Christmas. All this becaused his wife in a rage filed a bogus charge. She had help doing so by an ex-officer on the Harris Co.Sheriff’s Dept.

  7. Bob says:

    I’ve been there, and there are no exagerations…I saw beatings, a horrible staff, atroceous conditions…and we’re not Tom Delay…it takes like 20 hrs. to get through the booking process…God help you if someone is calling around trying to find you, because they sure as heck aren’t going to trouble themselves answering the phone…ITS NOT GOING TO CHANGE, THEY RECEIVE FUNDS FOR HOW MANY DAYS YOU ARE IN. This is all done to fund the system and keep their jobs. It’s the same old story as the cop giving all the unneccessary tickets at the speed trap…this is how they fund their departments…tax dollars are spent on other things…not fair police and judicial systems…they are forced to keep you there to charge the state for funds that if they would receive without solicitation wouldn’t mean the unneccessary torture of the working class…except for Tom Delay…he’s out in 30 min…I couldn’t even set bond in 15 hrs., let alone get arraigned.

  8. Kathy Smith says:

    I have a grandson that is in a Harris County Jail. He says they have 48 beds and have 60 inmates in his cell. During the state inspections, inmates sleeping on the floor are moved to the jail tunnel system which temporarily “solves” the overcrowding situation.After the inspectors leave, the inmates in the tunnel system are returned to the floors. The county currently decides when the inspection takes place. The state should make this decision and should be able to access any facility at anytime.

  9. Chad says:

    I was jailed in May for 3 days for Public Intoxication which has since been dismissed. I was jailed in my underwear and was not given a pair of pants until my second day in. People were not just sleeping on the floors but in urine and fecal matter. No toilet paper in the cells. Nothing to drink exept toilet water. I also witnessed 4 jailers beat up a guy so bad that there was blood all over the walls and the jailers shirt. They beat him up because he would not take off his black t-shirt that was under his orange shirt.

    I also witnessed the transferring of inmates when inspections were done in order to give the inspectors a false impression. The inspectors were not even allowed to look in the worse parts of the jail.

    I had heard about all this prior to being there but thought that there was no way it could be true. I do agree with what someone already said in that they should not jail the non-violent citizens that were charged with class “c” misdemeanors. In reality I spent three days in jail for a same charge as a traffic ticket.

    The jailers are literraly barbians and they know that nothing will make them change.

  10. Priscilla Gonzales says:

    Today is november 29 2005. I just got out of harris county jail on sunday, november 27. I was first at mykawa city jail, i got transferred to county the next morning. I had heard so much negative stuff about harris county, i was terrified to be going there. It was my first time ever being in any kind of trouble. I’m only 17, and am a A-B student. I’ve never really been in trouble before. Come to find out, all of things i heard about county were true and much worse. I was transferred with about 12 other girls and there were more already there waiting. While we were being searched, all of the male officers were making rude and innapropriate comments. Then, we were put in a holding tank with ALOT of other women that said they had been in there for a couple of days. They were so mean in there. They treated us like we were trash!! There was an elderly woman in there that was wearing contacts, her eyes were bloodshot red and she was having alot of trouble seeing, when she asked the officer if she could have something to put them in, he just looked at her like she was stupid, and slammed the door in her face!! There were women fighting in there, and nobody was doing anything about it! There is alot of other things that i witnessed in there, but i’d much rather not talk about it. HARRIS COUNTY NEEDS SOME MAJOR CHANGES!!!!!!!!

  11. Alma says:

    my boyfriend was arrested last night, Jan 2nd, he had several warrants from very old traffic violations. The VINE system they have you call for info is extremely frusterating because you cannot speak to a operator, and if you mess up you have to start all over. Anyway, we posted his bonds this morning, the 3rd, and the clerk tells us he will be released in 6 to 8 hrs. 7 hrs later we start to wonder why he hasn’t called. I call information, then call the jail and am told by a jackass deputy that ALL prisoners are released at 12am, regardless of what time the bond is posted. He was extremely rude and really acted like it was a big inconvience for him to look up my bf’s info. ALSO, the clerks giving the public info need to know what the hell they are talking about. When I asked why he might not have called, she went off saying that they couldn’t FORCE him to call us. I found out that the correct answer to this question is because his parents’ number is unlisted, and he could not connect to any number with any type of restrictions, including cell phones. I tried to call the bonding place back to correct this woman on her mistakes, but of course their system is also freaking automated. Granted, none of this would have gotten him out sooner, but it is so damn frustrating to be continually misinformed.

  12. Dub says:

    I agree with every comment preceding this one. I was incarcerated for three miserable days. I know jail is not supposed to be fun but that was ridiculous. 20 hours in holding cells sitting elbow to elbow with less than desirable people. The Baker Street jail wasn’t as bad as the processing facility but was understaffed with 60 people to a 48 bed room. The guards treat you like a maggot no matter how you treat them. Only one out of 7 or 8 would even answer a question. The whole system in Harris county is guilty untill proven innocent.My charge was dismissed ONLY because I could afford a good lawyer eventhough the charges were false. Alot of the people in jail shouldn’t have been there in my opinion but the could not afford good representation and opted to take so called deals. It cost me several thousand dollars to get out of something that never happenned in the first place.

  13. Ashley Norris says:

    I have been to the county more than once, 4 times to be exact and I know how horrible it can be. The first time I went I got bonded out which took about 12 hours. Then I was let out, The longest wait of my life or so I thought. The next time I spent 30 days in the county. I spent 4 of those days just in the holding cell…4 days!!! I watched people come in and leave and I’m still sitting there to go upstairs. It was horrible, Come to find out they lost my paperwork. Now how in the hell do you loose paper work and you dont do anything but sit on your ass and drink coffee. I’m not saying that all of the deputies are bad, one of my best friends works in harris county jail. The SOT says that inmates are to be booked and issued a cell within 24 hours. This is not exceptable to be sitting down there for that long. The worst thing about the experience is all of the diseases and viruses that you can get, STDS are a major issue. There was a lady bleeding from a car accident they brought her in, and she kept telling everyone she needed med’s for a ton of illnesses, not to mention she was HIV positive. The officers dont care nor would they ever care, what other inmates might come in contact with. The only thing that i found they do on time, is their 15 check on TB testing and HIV testing, but after 15 days anyone could have caught TB. Its horrible. I’m not saying that I’m innocent for all of my crimes, but no one should be treated that way, where not in mexican prison, we are in the United states, where even prisoners have rights. County jail is not suppose to be worse than penetentury time. I know people who are like “I will be glad when TDC comes and gets me.” You can’t say that just because we are criminals, or we did the crime, that punishment should be so harsh. I would shut the shit down if I had any authority to do so. Why should the deputies be allowed to sit on their asses while we are miserable. Its horrible.

  14. Case Pending says:

    I totally agree with all of the above comments. I spent 3 days in the holding cell and 1/2 day at Baker. We all should contact the state and express our concerns. I caught ringworm just sitting on the floor. I hope didnt catch TB. I too will get out of my charge with a expensive attorney. If any other good lawyers are on this post, how about a class-action suit by inmates against Harris County. You have one member here.

  15. tom says:

    so who is interested in an inmate publication to organize and correctly inform people of their right, jail policies, and act as an avenue to facilitate higher education and competent legal help? shoot me an email and ill fill you in!

  16. charles trublood says:

    I was in Harris County jail back in July for 15 days serving a dwi sentence.Waiting to get processed is the worst part.It took 30 hours or more.There must of been at least 100 men packed in a holding tank that was 16×20.there were guys bleeding next to me.It was hot,no air.The guards are morons who hate thier jobs.They can’t even keep a death row inmate from sneaking out of there.

  17. Josh says:

    Iwas released from harris county jail on Feb. 26 at 2pm, 18 hours after my bond had been set. I have a medical condition (blood clot in my frontal lobe)that causes me to have seizures, about 8 a week on average. While I was waiting to get trasported downtown from a substation in memorial I had a seizure and was taken to Ben Taub Hospital. While I was there the doctor that was checking me out told the officer that i needed to be admitted because of my condition and the lack of meds I would have in county. The officer said “Its not my problem what happens to him once he gets down there, I have to take him.” Do any of these officers have a heart? This is serious. I finially got to county about 9 hours after being released from that nasty hospital still without meds or food. I found out that the er doctor had written me prescriptions for my meds and I was supposed to get them when I got there. The officer who told me this looked at me after he saw them and said “you look healthy enough to me” and turned and threw them away. At this point I just wanted to get to medical so I didnt have another seizure in a holding cell with my luck some ignorant dumbass would think I was trying to fight and I would end up alot worse than I should be. 36 Hours after arrivig downtown I was released on bond still without my meds being givin to me and i know for a fact i told one particular officer my condition 5 different times. My meds are to be taken with food so it wouldnt have mattered considering that i didnt get a single meal during my stay. I understand that there are hardened criminals there and they do things that get these officers in a bad mood, but that doesnt excuse the fact that i was refused medical condition because an officer wanted to get even. The conditions there need to change. Its rediculous that a county jail can tell the state when to do inspections. The last time I checked the county was below the state and the state should just show up and catch the county doing what they are doing. Its just my opinion but its wrong

  18. Ms.Lewis says:

    This email is in regards to a story I hope will appeal to you and something can be done about it. There is and serious issue that needs to be investigated within entire Houston Harris County Jail Facility(s) especially 701 N. San Jacinto including the Medical Division. First of all inmates that may be incarcerated may have done criminal activity but not everyone is aggravated killers or rapist. I do understand there is no good crime but they are still human beings.

    If someone could get behind the scenes of the Harris County Jail facility they will see just how filthy it is from the time you walk in the door. Upon visiting you loved one and not to mention every bathroom whether men or women is filled with filth and foul smells. My complaint that I feel people need to know about the police brutality that goes on behind those walls. There are so many inmates that are being “jumped on” and beat to death and NOTHING is being done about it. When and inmate comes into and altercation with and officer 2-3 officers brutally beat them, send to what they call “clinic” (Medical Division) and move them to another floor such as maxim security saying they are a threat to the officers when its the officers who are a threat to the inmates (Floor(s) 2-5 is the low risk floor 6-7 is Maxim Security). This kind of behavior is just unacceptable. Myself as well as other wives of inmates have often heard inmates hollering and crying while they are getting fatally beat to death also seeing them being jacked up and there is NOTHING no on can do. The inmates or to afraid to file grievances due to the retaliation from the officers that will take place. And if they find out they have contacted “Internal Affairs” the worse it will be for them. From the DEPUTY to the SARGENT to the LOUTINENT do everything possible to cover there tracks and leave no room for errors. How long will this continue to go on and NOTHING be done about it? Is there anybody out there not scared to tackle this issue and blow Harris County on there treatment and harassment to others? You have to think of it as if it was your family member and this was happening to them could you or would you sit back and do NOTHING at all, I truly don’t think so because no one wants there loved one hurt regardless of the situation! The trustees of the Harris County Jail are taking the inmates food off of there trays segregating there trays from other inmates if the don’t like you. They also fondle with the other inmates food to whatever extent necessary. The media is the only answer to there prayers.

    Story: My husband was jumped on by a African-American deputy while the other deputy watched. The deputy searched there cell for contraband and my husband had soap in a plastic bag in which the deputy stated it was contraband he ask the deputy was it really contraband because he wasn’t really sure, well the deputy SLAPPED HIM IN THE FACE (FIRST) AND PUNCHED HIM IN THE STOMACH TWICE THREW HIM TO THE GROUND AND CARRIED HIM TO “CLINIC” in which after this was all done they placed him on Maxim Security on the 6th floor saying he lounged after the officer and now was a threat to the officers, well he forgot to mention he FORGOT to mention he slapped him FIRST. He’s incarcerated for a misdemeanor started out being on the 2nd floor, they then moved his entire tank to the 4th floor ‘just because’ no particular reason. The explained sometimes they just move them to another floor.Well since he has been on the 4th floor that’s where all the trouble begins. he has been move from the 4th floor to the 6th Maxim Security (you got to be kidding me).
    Well the catch is I ask to speak with Sgt. the day before 3/8/06(Wednesday) and reported what the “Trustees” were doing he told me he had to go downstairs he had something else other to do and referred me to another deputy. I explain to the deputy the situation of the trustees causing trouble for me when I am visiting by fondling themselves “Sexual Gestures” putting a broom between there legs riding it back and forth. I would constantly complain to my husband but would often let it go so no heat will be brought to him. I explain to the deputy we did not want any trouble all my husband wants to do is come home but I refuse to continue to experience that behavior, he then asked me to come back on 3/9/06(Thursday) as I normally would and if this takes place while he is on duty the trustees would loose there badge. I also explained how my husband had not been getting his food and he been eating with his commensary because the trustees. Well I returned on the Thursday the 9th of March 1) The deputy was NOT on duty; 2) No trustees in sight and 3) My husband was jumped on sent to clinic and moved to Maxim Security on the 6th floor.

    I received a call from and inmate in his cell who was choked and beaten 2 days prior from the SAME officers and still NOTHING was done by the SGT. NOR THE LT. and why is that nothing was done (That’s rather suspicious don’t you think)? He explained to me he seen everything that happened and my husband gave him the number to call me in case anything ever happen to him. He explain how afraid he was to say anything because of the retaliation! Well myself along with my husband returned to speak to some one in charge when the SGT.came down it was the same SGT. I tried to make the report too on 3/8/06. He refused to give us any information or see my husband he stated he was FINE and we just have to take his word for it and if we didn’t believe him we were wasting his time and that he had done his own investigation and whatever was done his officer were in there ALIGNMENT to do. And if we wanted to find out anything to ask my husband. When ask did he remember speaking with me and brushed me off to another deputy he said yes but I referred you to someone I felt could handle the situation just as I would. I said well if the situation was handled what am I doing here. The SGT. was very rude, non-chalant, un-cooperative and stupidly arrogant. I did contact his LT. to make a complaint on the SGT. as well as the issue. LT. acted as if I didn’t know how to explain myself but stated he was ****well aware**** of the issue. Upon talking to the LT. He was sticking to the lies saying the Sgt. said me and my husbands mother was irritated and that’s WHY he didn’t want to speak with us. I explain to the LT. his Sgt is a LIAR and he is trying to lie and cover everything up when ask there investigation process he refuse to explain to me what is done when a officer brutally beats and inmate. He says there turned over to internal affairs BUT HOWEVER as you can see he is a LIAR too. He is WELL AWARE of what goes on oh the 4th floor but REFUSES to report it to Internal Affairs.

    They then have and “inside” court ruling in which he gets a case where they all “stick” together compromising the system, in which they can give him longer jail time. They tried to make him sign documents stating he caused everything or they will make his time HARDER for him. This is just not right and something needs to be done anout this “BECAUSE” I am not the only one that has similar case, if someone could please do something about the Harris County system.

    As you can see Harris County Jail is a rip off of taxpayers dollars and there needs to be a Full Fledge Investigation or some type of story to bring heat to make them abide by the rules of and get dealt with properly with Internal Affairs(in which it takes Internal Affairs a 90 days to do a FULL investigation when you make a complaint for a case). And let the entire nation see just How “DAMN FILTHY” that place is and the food they are feeding them not to mention the cost of items when they use there commensary to go to the store. I hope you find it in your heart to make this one of your stories.

    Thank You For Your Time…

  19. case pending says:

    Already left a post about Harris county jail. It sux.

  20. bob says:

    why are you guys altering posts? I said what i meant and you changed it. The tx gov office is investigating.

  21. scott says:

    I’ve done time in Harris County Jail while waiting to go to TDCJ. All I can say is that anyone who is locked up in county jail, needs to find his or her way to 711 San Jacinto. Which is the work program. Thats your only chance of doing good time. As far as the processing and 701 San Jacinto, its a complete joke. I saw so much abuse, I couldnt believe this could be legal. And to the previous poster. Your right about coming out and hating law enforcement. There is a reason. While you are locked up, you see the power these cops get. There is no way they can take that attitude out to the streets. Ive seen beatings, abuse, refusal to serve food. Whatever you can think of bad in there…it goes on in there. Horrible conditions.

  22. jdtilley says:

    i have been in harris county myself so i speak from experience. I don’t understand why it takes so long to process an inmate but something needs to be done. the treatment inmates recieve in the harris county jail is poposterious if animals were treated the way they treat humans they would be arrested for animal cruelty and that is no exageration by any means….. harris county jail should be examined or investigated by some reporter it would probably make them famous if they were any good. something has got to be done about the treatment of inmates at harris county jail, i am ready to battle……….anybody want to fight with harris county i am ready……..

  23. Okey Doeky says:

    was there in the old area jail with some abuse done to a older smoking person who smoked up his cell and was then attacked by officers in charge with bloodey after effects for all to view…….

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