Wednesday, June 23, 2010

UPDATE: No jail expansion in Houston, for now

Yesterday the Harris County Commissioners Court bypassed the opportunity to put jail bonds on the ballot as Sheriff Adrian Garcia requested, instead criticizing Garcia for his unilateral decision to take prisoners contracted to a Lousiana jail and move them to Texas counties which charge more money.

Commissioner Jerry Eversole said he'd have been indicted if he did the same thing, but I don't think so unless there was some financial or political quid pro quo. It was a fiscally imprudent decision, but probably not a criminal one unless there's some unstated evidence of kickbacks or patronage that hasn't been alleged. In any event, commissioners have figured out it's cheaper in the short to medium run to rent contract beds and focus on expanding diversion programs than to build new jail facilities they can't afford to staff.

RELATED: Push to expand Harris jail ill-conceived.

MORE: Kuff says Commissioners Eversole and Radack have only recently gotten religion regarding jail overcrowding, to which I can only reply, better late than ever.


Charles Kuffner said...

Scott, it's clear that Eversole and Radack's criticisms of Garcia were pure politics. They never expressed any concern about the cost of incarcerating Harris County's prisoners while Tommy Thomas was Sheriff, and in fact were strong proponents of the 2007 jail bond referendum. I rounded up a few old news stories here:

This quote December 2006 is my favorite:

Commissioner Steve Radack acknowledged that the county will spend more on jail expenses if the two jails are built. “The public will have to make a decision when it comes to the inmate population,” he said. “And that decision will be does the public want to keep people incarcerated or do they want to pay with damages and break-ins to their property and possibly their lives if we don’t keep people incarcerated.”

Charles Kuffner said...

I guess I didn't make myself fully clear here. I'm being sarcastic about Radack and Eversole "getting religion" on jail overcrowding, because the only concern they are expressing is with how much it costs to rent prison space elsewhere. At no point are they saying we need to be incarcerating fewer inmates, they just want to pay less per inmate that we outsource.

Anonymous said...

Texas sheriff's or any county elected official for that matter, except for the commissioner's court, are not authorized to execute contracts for the county.

I wonder how some of these people, icluding the commissioner's court, get elected.

In the absence of a statute authorizing another county official to enter
into a contract,’ the commissioners court has the sole authority to enter into contracts binding the
county. See supra p. 3. Moreover, individual commissioners court members have no authority to
bind the county by their separate action; only an action taken by the commissioners court acting as
an official body can bind the county. See Can&s v. Laughlin, 214 S.W.2d 45 1,455 (Tex. 1948);
Gano v. Palo Pinto County, 8 S.W. 634,635 (Tex. 1888). A contract made by a county is valid and
binding only if made under the authority of a resolution or order duly passed at a meeting of the
commissioners court and entered in the minutes. See, e.g., Stratton Y. County ofliberty, 582 S. W.2d
252, 254 (Tex. Civ. App.-Beaumont 1979, writ ref d n.r.e.); Wilson v. County of Calhoun, 489
S.W.2d 393,397 (Tex. Civ. AppCorpus Christi, 1972, writ ref d n. r.e.); Morrison v. Kohler, 207
S.W.2d 951,954 (Tex. Civ. App.-Beaumont 1947, writ ref d n.r.e.).

Retired LE

Alan Bernstein/HCSO said...

Truthiness, please! "Criticizing Garcia for his unilateral decision to take prisoners contracted to a Lousiana jail and move them to Texas counties." The sheriff and his staff have never moved any inmates from LA to TX. That's N-E-V-E-R. And yes, every single contract for jail space in LA and TX has been approved unanimously by county commissioners and the county judge.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Perhaps not, Alan, but hair splitting aside, Eversole is right that the Sheriff shifted inmates via allocation from less expensive to more expensive beds.

Alan Bernstein said...

It's way too "meta" for you to classify your factual errors as hair-splitting -- three times in a row. C'mon over and see for yourself. We'll be very nice, and I'll pay for your gas.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Alan, some people seek factual clarificaitons to enlighten, others to obfuscate. In your case you're trying deflect attention from the truth of Eversole's criticisms by splitting hairs, while yourself ignoring uncomfortable facts.

I'm happy to come visit on one condition: First place we visit are the empty wings at 1201 Baker. I want to see all your current unused capacity so I can understand why you now need 1,200 more beds.

I also fail to understand how anything you show me will change the fact that the Sheriff can't presently staff the beds you have without untenable overtime and couldn't possibly staff an expanded jail even if voters approve it. That's the real reason your boss lost yesterday and will continue to lose on this - it's not economically viable.

OTOH, it'd be worth the visit if you could introduce me to some of those two-dimensional illegal aliens who you're able to house without taking up any extra space. :)

gih said...

Well, that's bad, prisoners should be more comfortable.

Anonymous said...

"C'mon over and see for yourself. We'll be very nice, and I'll pay for your gas."

...said the spider to the fly.

Anonymous said...

There is still a quiet campaign underway to build a 'booking center' in Houston that would relieve HPD of running its own jail. As the booking center would have over 1k beds we might just consider it an end run around voter bond rejection and commissioners' apparent lack of interest. Harris Cty recently signed on to CoH's soccer pork deal which included creation of a couple of new TIRZs, we have not heard the last of this debacle.

Anonymous said...

There is still a quiet campaign underway to build a 'booking center' in Houston that would relieve HPD of running its own jail.

Word is that the state is trying to require city jails to comply with TDCJ standards. Houston simply cannot afford that, and if it happens Houston will switch to cite and summons before you can blink.