The city of Houston should build new jails “with all due speed” due to chronic overcrowding and “filthy” conditions in its existing facilities, a court-appointed inspector has found, reports the Houston Chronicle. Overcrowding at the city’s two detention centers – where inmates usually are kept 12 hours or less – has heightened tensions that lead to more “confrontation incidents” for inmates upon intake and made it necessary for inmates to eat sitting on the ground and sleep on mattresses on the floor.
The problems are severe enough that the city may face serious challenges in implementing a federal program to screen those arrested for immigration status, because inmates detained as illegal immigrations might have to remain in custody longer than they would otherwise stay. “We’re doing the best we can,” said Capt. Doug Perry, commander of the Houston Police Department’s jail division. “We’re doing the best we can to keep our jails clean and well maintained to distribute our populations evenly. … We’re working on it very diligently.” City Councilwoman Jolanda Jones, a defense attorney who proposed the jail should be shut down after visiting it earlier this year, said it is “inhumane,” adding, “Innocent people there are being forced to live in subhuman conditions.”