Harris County Jail Issues Loom Large In Race For Sheriff

Both the incumbent and his challenger agree there are serious problems with the Harris County Jail – but they differ on how to address them.

By Florian MartinOctober 31, 2016 9:45 am| , , ,

From Houston Public Media:

Much is being said about what’s wrong with the local lockup, so we decided to take a look ourselves and went on a tour of 1200 Baker Street, one of the four buildings in the Harris County Jail system.

As expected, there are cold concrete floors and walls without windows and heavy doors. We get a look at the acute mental illness block and a few of the more notorious inmates, including Shannon Miles, who is accused of killing deputy Darren Goforth, and David Conley, who is awaiting trial for allegedly killing a family of eight.

But you also get some positive sides of the jail, like the “Freedom Project,” the sheriff’s office’s drug rehabilitation program. Inmates in this group meet on a daily basis and are provided resources to help them for their time after their release.

The Harris County Jail houses nearly 10,000 inmates at any given time.  And that’s one of the problems community activists want to see changed.

“Whenever jails are overcrowded, there’s a safety issue,” said John Ogletree, a pastor and member of The Metropolitan Organization, a church-based community institution. “And we of course want safety to be a priority, but in that safety for inmates to be treated humanely.”

Tackling overcrowding is high on Ed Gonzalez’s list. The former Houston police officer and city council member is challenging Sheriff Ron Hickmanin the upcoming election.

“Jail overcrowding, it’s going to be a multi-dimensional problem,” Gonzalez told News 88.7. “We have to look at bail reform, we have to look at alternatives to incarceration, we have to look at other things that may be able to provide relief, and so it’s something that requires strong leadership and the will to really get this done.”

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