Harris Co. to release 1,000 non-violent offenders to fight spread of COVID-19

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo is issuing an order that will release 1,000 non-violent inmates from the county jail. Hidalgo is looking to make a difference in a place where social distancing is impossible.

"We know that the Harris County Jail is a ticking time bomb," said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

There are about 4,000 hospital beds available for COVID 19 patients.

There are currently 8,000 inmates in the Harris County Jail.

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"That's larger than 50 percent of the towns in Texas," said Dr. Esmaeil Porsa with Harris County Health Systems. "So we are talking about a city within a city."

And that City known as the Harris County Jail could spell disaster for the rest of Houston and Harris County.

According to a tweet by Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez there is one confirmed case of COVID 19 in the Harris County Jail population.

Two dozen more inmates are in quarantine with symptoms awaiting test results.

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More than eleven hundred are in quarantine for observation after possible exposure.

Practicing social distancing in county jail is not possible.

"They are using common bathroom areas common tables where they eat and sleep," Porsa said.

"We will not hold inmates in the county jail on non-violent charges," Hidalgo said. "We will not be releasing folks with burglary of a homestead charges it DWI 3rd charges."

The Houston Police Officers' Union voiced opposition to Hidalgo's decision to release non-violent inmates in a fiery release posted on Twitter.

The releases won't happen until the non-violent inmates go before pre-trial services.

"The jail population is at risk of being the epicenter of a catastrophe a catastrophic outbreak in our county and not just inmates not just the 3000 folks who work in the jail but the entire community who needs the bed space that is in limited supply," said Hidalgo.