Updated with reaction from the Sheriff's Office.
Harris County Commissioner Jerry Eversole implied at meeting earlier today that the county's sheriff, Adrian Garcia, acted improperly and wasted tax payer money when he moved inmates from a jail in Lousiana to a jail in Texas.
"If I were doing what Sheriff Garcia is allowed to do, I would be indicted," Eversole said. "Not just looked at. Indicted! For being able to take a $28 prisoner and put him in a $45 jail. You tell me I wouldn't be."
Of course, Eversole added that he's already "under observation by every law enforcement agency that the United States can create and ever has created." (He was the target of corruption allegations a couple years ago.)
Garcia, who spoke with members of the media after today's Commissioners Court meeting, said, "It's all inaccurate. For someone who's been around for quite some time, they should understand the process."
Eversole's problem with Garcia centers around methods used by the sheriff's department to reduce overcrowding at the Harris County Jail.
The county has contracts with jails in Texas and Louisiana to house its inmates there. According to the sheriff, about 1,500 Harris County inmates are in other jails. In Newton County, Texas, for example, there are 716.
And an item on today's agenda called for the county to pay Newton County $6,538,610 "for the detention, care, and transport of up to 872 adult inmates for the Sheriff's Department."
Eversole, along with Commissioner Steve Radack, was particularly peeved that Garcia recently moved inmates between jails.
"Isn't it true that we took people out of Louisiana, where we were paying less money to house them, and moved them into Texas where we pay more?" Radack said. "Why did this happen? How did it happen? How many millions did this cost us?"
Eversole added, "I don't understand how [Garcia] can write a contract, or have it written, without anybody at this table having any say about it," Eversole said. "Why does the sheriff get to choose?"
Garcia, after the meeting, answered the question quite simply: "I'm the jail administrator," he said.
But, Garcia said, "Everyday we're working to make sure we are getting the best market value for that process, and trying to find ways to get these inmates off of the tax rolls all together."
Update: Christina Garza, a spokeswoman for the sheriff, tells Hair Balls that Harris County inmates haven't been moved from jails in Louisiana to Texas. Furthermore, Garza says, the inmates placed in Texas jails aren't eligible to be housed in Louisiana because of criteria set by the jails there and the Harris County Sheriff's Office.
"I think the cost per inmate is what [the commissioners] were looking at," Garza says. "But we don't want to put people so far away in Louisiana who are going to have a future court date here in Harris County. It wouldn't make any sense."
She continues, "We're looking at transportation costs, medical care costs, and inmate classification. All of those are things we factor in when making these contracts."
Garza adds that each of the jail contracts have, in fact, been approved by the County Attorney's office and the Commissioners Court.
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