Overcrowding in Houston’s Harris County Jail is considerably worse than recent numbers indicated, says the Houston Chronicle. The Texas Commission on Jail Standards found the jail in noncompliance in June, estimating that overcrowding had left nearly 1,300 inmates sleeping on mattresses on the floor. The number sleeping on mattresses was closer to 1,700 to 1,900, said Terry Julian, executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. Julian blamed the discrepancy on a “computer error.” Said Bill Medaille of the American Civil Liberties Union: “I was shocked. The situation was much worse than it appeared.”
The Harris County Commissioners Court is expected to approve nearly $1.5 million next week for staff to open more space and ease overcrowding in the county jail. Sheriff Tommy Thomas is asking for $700,000 for 60 new detention officers through the end of the budget year in March. He said he’s also seeking $750,000 in overtime pay between now and the end of September. With more jailers on hand, the county will be able to open up more space for the jail population, which a state official said is growing at 100 per month. Other options under consideration include pressing the state to pick up inmates detained for prisons more quickly, sending fewer people to jail for technical parole violations and diverting more low-level offenders to probation.