"On any given time, we have at least a thousand state prisoners here, whether they're people waiting to go to TDC [Texas Department of Corrections] to prison, or blue warrants where they've been picked up for probation violation. So, usually around a thousand, which would be a little less than ten percent of our population on any given day."
Harris County is authorized to jail a maximum of 94 hundred inmates but Mike Smith, chief deputy for detention command says the state jail commission is strict on allowing that population to exceed the maximum.
"We have to be very careful for the upcoming summer surge. Our biggest, highest capacity is usually August, September and early October. Traditionally, it starts down back then. Unfortunately, last year, it never dropped. If we keep uyp at this rate, we're going to have to continue to ship them out. We can't even build anything that fast."
County Judge Ed Emmett says a bond proposal that would have paid for more jails be built was defeated by voters:
"We did have alot of people move into our community from Louisiana and just a surge of new people. We are a rapidly growing community where as, other parts of the nation aren't growing so rapidly, and we haven't built a new jail in a while. So, at some point, something has to change. We either need to not incarcerate so many people or, we need to come up with a new facility. In the meantime, we have to look at what's going on in other parts of the state."
He says the area's growing pains have resulted in a ripple effect from the state down to the local level. Commissioner Radak can think of one obvious solution:
"Well, number one, the state should take their prisoners. But, if they're not going to take their prisoners, they should at least pay us to handle their prisoners and we could therefore, send some to Louisiana like we're doing. I think they should reimburse us for housing their prisoners. "
Another bond proposal to pay for more jail construction is being considered. Until then, all agree that sending inmates to Louisiana is alot cheaper than keeping them here.
Pat Hernandez. KUHF- Houston Public Radio News.