Good for Commissioner Lee. With this proposal, I'm reminded that a recent report (July) from the National Conference of State Legislatures titled "Cutting Corrections Costs: Earned Time Policies for State Prisoners" (pdf) suggested allowing inmates to earn early release through labor or participation in programming as a means of cutting expenses while creating incentives for reform. This shows the same concepts can be usefully applied at the county level.
Harris County Commissioner El Franco Lee has proposed that the county consider putting more prisoners to work cleaning local bayous and parks.
The plan would give working inmates three days' credit per day served in jail instead of the two they receive now so they could earn earlier release, Lee said.
“I'm putting it up for discussion because there has been overcrowding and it is an issue that would bring Harris County in consistency with other parts of the state,” he said.
Part of the rationale for extra credit for work details is that it would free up space in the jail as nonviolent offenders get out more quickly.
Terry O'Rourke, first assistant county attorney, confirmed that other parts of the state offer the three-for-one program.
I have very little doubt that if Harris County uses all the tools available to them, they can solve the jail overcrowding problem without new jail building. As I wrote yesterday, their short-term overcrowding crisis is much more a question of political will than demographic necessity.