More than half of the 1,300 inmates in Houston’s Harris County Jail who are sleeping on mattresses on the floor because of crowding will have bunks by early next week, says Sheriff Tommy Thomas, according to the Houston Chronicle. The other 550 prisoners will get beds in the coming months as the sheriff’s department begins to rely on overtime and new hires to work in areas of the jail closed because of staffing shortages.
Improved conditions will come at a price: the sheriff may ask the court for as much as $8 million to hire more than 150 corrections officers. The crowding problem led the Texas Commission on Jail Standards to decertify the county lockups for the second straight year. Vickie Randall of the Ministry Advisory Council, noting that new hiring could take months, voiced concern about job fatigue if staff is allowed to work overtime. “It’s a good thing that they are at least talking about this, but I think it’s like putting a Band-Aid on an open wound,” she said. “I still don’t see that it will have immediate impact. We have a crisis situation.” Visitors said they were horrified by conditions during a tour of the jail last week. They encountered an inmate with an infected, swollen leg, saw prisoners with rashes, spoke to women who had limited access to sanitary napkins and observed clogged toilets.