"We need to look at trying to save taxpayers' money and try to see if there's a cheaper way of operating the Harris County jails," ... "I think the best way to do that is to put the request for proposals out on the street to see who's interested and what their proposals are."
The resulting ideas could result in a limited contract — for food or medical services, for instance — or total privatization, Radack said.
State law allows commissioners courts to privatize jail operations. In most Texas counties, the court needs written approval of the sheriff to do so. However, in counties with a population of 2.8 million or more, including Harris, the sheriff does not need to approve if the contract meets or exceeds standards set by the state Commission on Jail Standards. ...
County Judge Ed Emmett said it never hurts to seek efficiencies, but said he has reservations about the proposal.
"I wouldn't be in favor of moving forward at all until somebody comes forward and says, 'This is why privatization would be good,' and gives me some concrete examples," Emmett said. "Clearly, it would be a massive change that would be undertaken neither lightly nor quickly. … It's one thing to say we're going to privatize a jail in a very small rural setting, but to talk about a jail like ours, where not only is it a jail but it's currently the largest mental health facility in the state of Texas — this is a large undertaking."
RELATED (4/22): Harris County Jail scaling back visitation hours.