Seems state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, isn't at all pleased with Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman's recent decision to transfer county inmates to another jail to alleviate overcrowding at the local county lockup.
“I am adamantly opposed to your decision to transfer Harris County residents confined in Harris County jails to a private, for-profit jail in Jefferson County,” Whitmire wrote in a letter to Hickman yesterday. Hickman announced this week that he'd outsourced some 100 inmates, who had already been sentenced to prison terms but hadn't yet been picked up by state prison officials, to the Jefferson County jail, which is run by the for-profit prison company La Salle Corrections (a company that, readers might remember, has paid Tomball state representative and wanna-be sheriff Allen Fletcher for consulting services in recent years).
In his letter, Whitmire told the sheriff, "I find it hard to believe that with roughly 600 empty beds in the Baker Street minimum security facility it is necessary to send taxpayer dollars to house 100 Harris County jail inmates in Beaumont.” Hickman hasn't said how much the county will have to pay to house inmates at the for-profit jail (calls to Hickman's office weren't immediately returned Thursday).
Whitmire also claims Hickman didn't even consult local stakeholders with Harris County Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee, and instead unilaterally chose to send inmates off to another jail – something the sheriff's office hasn't had to do since 2012. “Since the jail was still within its approved operating capacity, collaboration with the major stakeholders of the Harris County criminal justice system may have led to alternative resolutions without the transfer of inmates,” Whitmire wrote.
Whitmire goes on to reference one of the more obvious reasons the jail is constantly at or near capacity (which we wrote about yesterday): “Harris County is well-known for its abysmal use of pre-trial or personal bonds even though the Harris County Commissioner's Court expends millions of dollars to support the Harris County Pre-Trial Service Department,” which, as Whitmire notes in his letter to Hickman, recently recruited a new director after a nation-wide search. “Surely within the thousands of inmates currently held, there must be 100 or more who would have qualified for these services and saved the taxpayers from enriching a private, for-profit jail.”
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You can read all of Whitmire's letter to the sheriff here:
Update 7:00pm: Hickman's just sent us the sheriff's response to Whitmire's letter, which you can read here: