Giving more money to jail workers and reducing the court backlog hasn’t helped Harris County’s jail crisis. Now, officials are trying to figure out what to do.
Judge Lina Hidalgo calls the jail her top priority, which is a problem she admits she doesn’t know if she can fix, but she wants to try.
“We’ve had 15 deaths so far this year,” Hidalgo said. “Huge overcrowding. If we can’t change it, at least be able to highlight who can.”
Last week, state leaders met with the county to discuss the jail. State leaders were so concerned they told the county more inmates had to be moved by the end of this month.
In order to make it happen, county leaders voted Tuesday to spend $11 million to move inmates to Mississippi.
“I want to see some finger-pointing if it’s to us or to who else on this issue,” Hidalgo explained.
To fix the issue, commissioners have poured millions into reducing the court backlog and giving incentives to jail workers. During commissioners’ court on Tuesday, officials were shown data that the extra money isn’t working.
The backlog is down, and correctional officers keep quitting. The answer may be something Hidalgo has said in the past she doesn’t want to do – build a new jail.
The facility holds about 10,000 inmates. A new jail may be needed, but Hidalgo isn’t sure she wants to increase capacity.
“I think that we need a better facility that does the smart work that obviously holds people who don’t need to be in the community, but also provides the support so that when they return, they don’t end up right back where they started,” Hidalgo explained.
The topic will continue to be brought up at commissioners court. Hidalgo said she wants updates at each meeting similar to the COVID-19 numbers she received during the pandemic.
It’s an issue county leaders say won’t be resolved soon, but one they want to fix before more inmates die and others get shipped out of the county.