KUHF-KHOU 11 News Survey Finds Voters Support Inmate Processing Center

It's all in the name. Harris County is asking voters to approve a bond issue this fall to build a joint inmate processing center with the City of Houston. According to early numbers from the new KUHF-KHOU 11 News poll, regardless of crime, voters are showing support for this measure.

The joint inmate processing center will cost about $70 million dollars and require Harris County to issue bonds to pay for it even though the plan won’t require a tax increase.

Rice University Political Science professor Bob Stein conducted the poll and found that 58-percent of the respondents support the referendum. 21-percent are against the plan.

“Maybe it’s because we called it a joint inmate processing center as opposed to a jail, but that’s what’s on the ballot. And more importantly, voters support this regardless of their perception of crime.”

There was a similar, but not joint proposal for much more money in 2007 that was defeated, largely because African-Americans voted overwhelmingly against the measure.

“In 2013, although 58 percent and by margins of 64 and 61 Anglos and Hispanics support this proposed initiative, African Americans oppose it slightly, 51-49. But I think a 58-percent margin is good, more importantly, there are no organized groups against this. So I think, the stars are aligned for this to pass and pass by a good margin.”

Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia says the center would replace two aging city lockups, but it’ll do more than incarcerate.

“Not only will it allow for me as sheriff to improve my operations, it’ll take the City of Houston out of the jail business, quit the duplication of operations, save the taxpayers money and get cops back out on the street faster.”

And while numbers show voters in favor the measure, Garcia says they aren’t taking anything for granted.

“This is an important measure. I want to make sure that it doesn’t get caught up in the debate of the Astrodome. This is a measure that isn’t going to cost the taxpayers any money, and it’s really going to improve a lot of services and operations for both the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and the Houston Police Department.”

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett says voters need to be sure they are aware of the measure.

“The county and the city are working together, which people like. It’ll allow us to have a place where we can divert people who don’t need to be in the criminal justice system. So, it’s just across the board, a wonderful step forward for the entire community.”

Rice’s Professor Stein says there is some concern that if African American voters increase their turnout that this would possibly hurt passing the measure.

To see the results of the KUHF-KHOU 11 News Election Poll, visit www.kuhf.org/poll2013.