Commissioners approved a plan to have engineers and architectural firms submit proposals for a joint processing center between the city and county.
Commissioner Steve Radack says the facility would benefit everyone.
"It's obvious that this is a positive, not only from the standpoint that this gives the city the opportunity to close down their jail, which is not in good shape. And it also gives us the ability that when people are booked into this processing center, that people that are mentally ill, can be dealt with, recognized and not become part of the criminal justice system, which will be an extreme positive, and that they'll be able to be treated correctly, instead of being incarcerated."
The idea for a processing center was first introduced when Bob Lanier was Houston's mayor. A location was considered along the banks of Buffalo Bayou, but Radack says that's probably why voters decided against it in a 2007 bond referendum.
"They city bonds did pass for the same thing years ago, but I brought that up today, whether it would be the same piece of land or not, and that's going to be discussed down the road. But I mean, there's land that we could trade that for or sell, and we could buy other property. So, I think we want to go into it in a way that the public will support it, but I think it's really important that we move forward and get something decided, and I think it needs to be done in the very near term."
The aim of a processing center has been to close the city's jails, and cut recidivism by offering social services to those in the county lockup, like the mentally ill.
Radack, a former Houston police officer and county constable, says he's talked to other members of Commissioners Court and County Budget Officer Bill Jackson about moving forward.
"The main thing here is to be able to streamline this processing in and out, and and the same time identify people that shouldn't be in the criminal justice system, and refer them to the appropriate places."
It's not clear what a processing center would cost, but the city has earmarked more than $30 million to help build it.