Monday, November 23, 2009

New Harris County jail would cost nearly $10 million annually to staff

It's already staggering to think that a proposed expansion of the Harris County jail would cost $256 million, or just more than a quarter-billion dollars. But that's really only the beginning because the agency would also have to staff the jail over and above basic construction costs.

How much are we talking about? Let's break it down. Sheriff Adrian Garcia proposes building 2,193 additional jail beds, and the Texas Commission on Jail Standards requires the facility to be staffed at a minimum ratio of one guard for every 48 inmates.

The jail must be staffed 24-7, or 168 hours per week per guard slot. If each guard works 40 hour weeks, that requires 4.2 guards per jailer slot.

So, 2,193/48 = 45.6875 guard slots to cover that many inmates. Call it 46 since you can't have a fraction of a guard. Multiplying 46 by 4.2 (the number of employees required to fill a jailer's position 24-7), we get a minimum 193 additional deputies the department would be forced to hire to staff the proposed facility.

According to the HCSO website, a first year correctional officer in Harris County makes $40,643. Adding in benefits, training, outfitting and other support for entry-level jailers, let's estimate total costs per employee at $50,000. (I'm guessing that may be a conservative figure.) That would put the additional annual staffing costs for new jail beds at $9,650,000, as a ballpark estimate. If the Sheriff chose to partially staff the new unit with overtime, those costs would rise even higher.

That $9.65 million per year comes on top of annual bond payments for the new facility. What's more, that's without including funding for any new supervisors or civilian staff (who are used for a variety of functions throughout the system), not to mention all the related utilities and operating costs involved.

$256 million sounds like a lot of money, but it's just the beginning of the financial burden Harris County taxpayers must bear if Sheriff Garcia's jail proposal is approved.


Alan Bernstein said...

The capacity of 2,193 in a proposed Central Processing Center includes about 1,000 inmates being booked or released at any one time. There are no beds involved in these processes; after booking, inmates who don't bond out are sent to housing, where the beds are and where the 48:1 standard applies. It does not apply to booking or releasing. Yes, booking requires staffing. But the calculations should be adjusted downward.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Huh, it seems like processing inmates would be MORE staff intensive than merely housing them.

Assuming you're correct, though, let's guess (absent hard data) that 1,000 inmates in booking are monitored at only a 70-1 ratio. Recalculating, that'd require 39 new slots instead of 46. By those estimates, you'd adjust downward $1.5 million. But $8+ million is still a big chunk of change, and that's without supervisors, civilian support, utilities, operating costs, etc..

Tacked onto the annual bond payments, new taxes would become unavoidable.

Thomas Hobbes said...

What Alan hasn't acknowledged is that the County already is anticipating flat revenues through the next fiscal year (2010-2011). He also hasn't acknowledged that the Sheriff's Department is one of the County departments that is unable to fill open positions in its ranks for lack of sufficient funds in its Salaries and Benefits line item. As with the previous bond issue, the question remains: is there a point in building a facility you can't staff?

Hook Em Horns said...

Harris County cannot staff and operate the jail(S) it has now. How in the hell do they think they can staff and operate another one? We have got to stop this insatiable lock-em-up attitude, reduce overcrowding and live within our means. The last thing we need in Houston is another FU@&!NG JAIL!

Alan Bernstein said...

Anonymous said...

So there I was, Grits, sipping my morning coffee today and reading the editorial page of the Houston "Comical" when, lo and behold, I discover that you have evidently managed to get into a pissing contest with Jeff Cohen and the editorial staff of Houston's liberal daily paper over this Harris County jail expansion thing!!! I almost spewed caffiene all over my recliner!! Dude, you've outdone yourself this time!!! You've got to put forth some serious liberal effort to get to the LEFT of that "Hug-a-Thug" rag on issues related to criminal justice!!! But you did it!!! LOL!!! Take another toke and pass the bong, Brother! You da man!!! :-)

Anonymous said...

is crazy, what the he## are we doing building another jail instead of coming up with another solutio especially for people that are locked up for "minotor" violations, meaning they were late getting home, or there is soemthing wrong with the minotr or they actually done somethings stupid like go outside to mow the grass for their mon and were "violated". Yea as the mother os a don that is being "monitored" i do know of an instance where another person was thrown in jail for a monitor violation because he went outside to mow the grass. Harris County is getting CRAZY with this "lock them up" mentally and on top of it all there is no consideration for people with ongoing medical conditions.

Will the "new" jail do something more anout the lack of medical intervention while people are locked up, I think not. I am hearing about more guard but what about better/more medical staff.

Anonymous said...

"According to the HCSO website, a first year correctional officer in Harris County makes $40,643"

The website shows the starting salary for a Deputy Sheriff. Detention Officers are not sworn deputies, their starting pay is 31-32k per year.

Some deputies do work the jails, but the over-whelming majority of jailers in texas are non-sworn detentio officers who make less than sworn deputies.

Anonymous said...

In your staffing figures, you left out sick time, vacation time, time off for training, etc. The real staffing for a 24-7 position is more like 5.1 to 1.