HOUSTON - Reality check - The Harris County Jail is the most dangerous incarceration complex in the Lone Star State where less than 500 severely overworked guards are struggling, 24/7, to control more than 6,800 "maximum security" inmates, each with a documented propensity for violence.
"There is no facility in the entire state of Texas, no state prison, and no County Jail that comes close to those kind of numbers," said Ed Gonzalez, Harris County Sheriff.
Gonzalez says the facility, literally filled with predators, has hit critical mass as evidenced by the murder of special needs inmate Fred Harris, the rape of a female detention officer, and the aggravated assault on two guards just this week.
"We've got to relieve the pressure now," said Gonzalez. "Serious offenders are really wreaking havoc on the operation."
With criminal court dockets still thoroughly clogged and the on-boarding of up to 180 additional detention officers still three months away Commissioners Court approved the transfer of up to 500 inmates to jails outside of Harris County.
Having failed a state jail inspection and facing a class-action federal lawsuit lodged by the deputy’s union, County leaders appear now to have "eyes wide open" to the crisis at hand.
"Tougher folk and being held longer leads to an explosive situation," said Rodney Ellis, Harris County Commissioner Pct. 1.
"You are a mega-jail and as a result you need mega resources," said Adrian Garcia, Harris County Commissioner Pct. 2.
"We're not shying away from the challenge," said Gonzalez. "We are not making excuses."
Before misdemeanor bond reform and the COVID-19 pandemic, roughly 30 percent of the jail population was considered "violent".
Gonzalez says currently roughly 8 out of 10 inmates are classified as dangerous.