Jail Bond Rejected

Officials at the Harris County Sheriff's Department are dismayed over the voters' rejection of a bond issue to build a new jail, and expand health care facilities in all the jails. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports.

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The rejected bonds would have built a $245 million dollar jail with space for 2,500 inmates. They would have also paid for a processing-evaluation center and medical facility with mental health care for jail inmates. Sheriff's spokesman Lt. John Martin says they don't believe voters understood the full scope of what the bonds would have provided.ξ It's about more than just more jail cells.

"We are bumping up against our capacity here within the existing jail facility, so obviously there's a need for more bed space, but in addition to that, the new facility was going to greatly expand our medical and mental health care capabilities as well, so it's much more than just an issue of bed space."

Martin says losing the bond issue means the county will also lose some money the city was ready to kick in to help the project.

"You know one other thing that's important to point out is apparently the City of Houston has some funds that they were able to contribute to this project right now, and I don't believe that those funds are going to be available in the foreseeable future.ξ So the failure of this bond proposal to pass also means that we are not able to take advantage of some of the opportunities that were available to us at this particular point in time."

Lt. Martin says they're not sure what they'll do now because the jail population just keeps increasing. He says clearly the Sheriff's Department will be forced to make do with the jail facilities it has now, and hope for a better outcome the next time they submit a bond issue to the voters.ξ Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.

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