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Inmate processing center polls favorably

The other issue on the county ballot appears to be in good shape.


Results from a recent KUHF-KHOU 11 News poll suggest strong voter support for a $70 million November bond issue for a city-county inmate processing center.

The poll, conducted by Rice University political science professor Bob Stein, found 58 percent of respondents support the measure and 21 percent oppose it. About 64 percent of Anglos supported the item and 61 percent of Hispanics did, Stein told KUHF, but just 49 percent of black respondents did; a quarter were opposed, and a quarter were undecided. (This post corrects earlier poll numbers for black respondents.)

A similar trend was at work when voters, led by overwhelming opposition from African-Americans, narrowly rejected a $195 million bond measure to build a much larger jail facility six years ago. That version of the project was a $245 million jail with 2,500 beds and expansive mental health and medical facilities.

The $100 million facility proposed now is a significantly pared down version of a the 2007 project. It would replace the main county jail’s cramped processing center, which has been operating over capacity even as the jail population has fallen.

Advocates also emphasize this year’s proposal is not a jail. With 552 short-term beds, the project is designed primarily as a processing facility, aimed at getting inmates in and out more quickly and cheaply by eliminating redundant city-county law enforcement processes. Many inmates booked into the city’s jails today are facing state charges (basically, charges more significant than getting a ticket for violating a city ordinance), and simply wait until the county can take them, then get transferred to the county jail and booked in all over again.

Stein told KUHF it may be significant that his poll — and the Nov. 5 ballot language — refer to the effort as a processing center and not a jail.

“There are no organized groups against this, so, I think, the stars are aligned for this to pass and pass by a good margin,” he said.

I presume this is the same sample as in the Dome poll. More from KUHF.

Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia says the center would replace two aging city lockups, but it’ll do more than incarcerate.

“Not only will it allow for me as sheriff to improve my operations, it’ll take the City of Houston out of the jail business, quit the duplication of operations, save the taxpayers money and get cops back out on the street faster.”

And while numbers show voters in favor the measure, Garcia says they aren’t taking anything for granted.

“This is an important measure. I want to make sure that it doesn’t get caught up in the debate of the Astrodome. This is a measure that isn’t going to cost the taxpayers any money, and it’s really going to improve a lot of services and operations for both the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and the Houston Police Department.”

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett says voters need to be sure they are aware of the measure.

“The county and the city are working together, which people like. It’ll allow us to have a place where we can divert people who don’t need to be in the criminal justice system. So, it’s just across the board, a wonderful step forward for the entire community.”

See here and here for the background. I plan to support this, and I’m glad to see that it polls well. This isn’t adding jail capacity, and it is allowing the city to get out of the jail business. A win all around.

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