Harris County, in the latest move to keep its swelling jail population in check, is pursuing an agreement with neighboring Fort Bend County to send inmates to the suburb’s jail.
A Harris County Sheriff’s Office spokesman called the measure precautionary. If it is approved by commissioners at their meeting Tuesday, it’s not certain that Harris County would immediately begin sending inmates to the Fort Bend County jail. But it’s likely that Harris County in the near future will begin the transfers, especially as its jail population spikes in the summer months.
“Harris County officials asked if we had bed space available and we do,” Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls said in a written statement Friday. “They came out and looked at our facility and were impressed with what they saw. We will be able to accommodate the increased number of inmates within our current budget.”
Earlier this year, Harris County began sending hundreds of inmates to jails in Jefferson and Bowie counties.
What is different about the Fort Bend County proposal is that it targets pretrial inmates, or those in jail ahead of their court proceedings, said Harris County Sheriff’s spokesman Ryan Sullivan.
The Bowie and Jefferson transfers focused on inmates who had been convicted and were awaiting transfer to a state prison.
The pretrial inmate population is the biggest driver of the county’s high jail population, Sullivan said.
It’s also been the subject of intense scrutiny in recent years.
See here for the background. Everything I said then remains true now. What we are doing is the definition of dumb. It is our choice to jail thousands of people each year who are no threat to anyone. It is our choice to do something different. We need people in place – Sheriff, DA, judges – who will make the better choices.