Officials consider county jail expansion

Montgomery County officials seek ways to expand its county jail to address overcrowding.

Montgomery County officials seek ways to expand its county jail to address overcrowding.

Montgomery County Jail Montgomery County officials seek ways to expand its county jail to address overcrowding.Montgomery County Commissioners Court reassembled a dormant committee in September to examine ways to improve the county jail, which lacks adequate space for its ever-growing number of inmates.[/caption]

The Montgomery County Jail was built in 1987 to accommodate 600 inmates. Now, after repurposing existing spaces to add beds, it houses 1,122 inmates in that same 302,000-square-foot facility constructed nearly three decades ago.

“We could potentially do an expansion on the existing jail at a much [lower] cost than building a whole new jail [through] a combination of streamlining processes and looking at future [facility] growth—smart growth, not just building on,” County Judge Craig Doyal said.

More than 60 percent of the jail’s inmates are waiting on felony trials. Doyal said the committee is also looking for ways to move inmates through the court system more quickly—which would eliminate the immediate need for a new jail.

The committee is composed of 12 officials, including Doyal, Sheriff Tommy Gage and District Attorney Brett Ligon, and held its first meeting in September.

Montgomery County Jail Montgomery County officials seek ways to expand its county jail to address overcrowding.[/caption]

Growing pains

Last year, the committee hired Austin-based Broaddus Planning and Miami-based CGL Companies to present possible solutions to the jail’s overcrowding woes. The proposal included the construction of an entirely new facility, which came with a hefty $200 million price tag. County Judge Craig Doyal said there has to be another way to address the jail’s overcrowding problem.

Capt. David Moore, jail administrator, said he and his team have had to be creative with their given space.

“We take storage rooms or a multipurpose room and build it out with bunks,” Moore said. “We’ve doubled our size without building new buildings.”

Moore said improvements have also been made in medical care services. He said he converted storage space to build an alternative infirmary and began to employ Sam Houston State University graduate students to offer psychological counseling and increased doctor’s hours.

Moore said a new kitchen to accommodate 2,500 inmates was also completed this year.

The recent additions are some of the reasons why Doyal said he wants to see a jail expansion rather than build a newer, more expensive facility.

Even though the jail has a maximum capacity of 1,253 beds, not all of the beds can be occupied at once because of inmate classification. The Texas Commission on Jail Standards’ guidelines require jails to not exceed 90 percent of their capacity, which is 1,125 inmates for Montgomery County.

A citation was never issued to Montgomery County because jail officials were able to correct the issue in a timely manner, according to TCJS.

The jail meets the TCJS population standards by entering into mutual agreements with other Houston-area jails, such as those in Walker, Jefferson and San Jacinto counties, Chief Deputy Sheriff Randy McDaniel said. However, the jail was considered “at-risk” by the commission in 2014 because of its surging population, TCJS Assistant Director Shannon Herklotz said.

“We can send prisoners to other locations but that costs money,” McDaniel said. “It takes up our time, our efforts and our employment resources.”

Montgomery County Jail Montgomery County officials seek ways to expand its county jail to address overcrowding.[/caption]

Court processes

Some changes have been made to the court system to improve efficiency, including the addition of another full-time and a part-time felony court judge to increase the county total to four, Court Administration Director
Nate Jensen said.

In 2013, the county separated its courts into categories and allowed them to focus on a specific type of case to make it easier for trials to be scheduled in a timely manner, Jensen said.

“I think something that gets lost in the mix is judicial discretion on a case-by-case basis,” he said. “We look at it in terms of the whole system and why we aren’t moving people out, but a judge has to weigh all the different priorities.”

Jensen said identifying the reasons for trial scheduling changes and ensuring dates are moved only weeks ahead can help streamline processes.[polldaddy poll=9090338]

Another option is moving the physical location of the courts entirely, Doyal said.

“You have deputies tied up all day long just bringing prisoners to the court and, in many cases, to only have their hearing reset,” Doyal said. “That’s been a real challenge for law enforcement.”

Moving forward

The committee is expected to determine the jail’s needs; whether court procedural changes are needed; and whether an added floor to the jail or an extension of the bottom level would be beneficial, McDaniel said.

McDaniel said officials visited nearby jail facilities to look for ideas to implement in Montgomery County.

A jail expansion seems like the best next step, McDaniel said, adding he is confident the committee can find an inexpensive solution for expansion needs. He said one solution could be an expansion similar to one that took place at Fort Bend County Jail. However, Doyal said no timeline has been established for approval of possible solutions.

“They have a jail facility that is
multistory. I believe that is probably what it’s going to take for us in our jail expansion, but that’s going to be in the future,” McDaniel said.


Imperio Wine & Spirits sells a variety of liquor, beer, wine and spirits. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Imperio Wine & Spirits opens in Katy; Montgomery Chick-fil-A to open dining room and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Greater Houston area.

A new substation could be coming to Montgomery to better serve customers in the next 10 years. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Entergy Texas considering new substation in Montgomery area at FM 1097 and FM 149

The project is part of Entergy’s 10-year plan but could be built sooner.

See how some Greater Houston area school districts are planning to go back to school for the 2021-22 academic year. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
See how some Greater Houston area school districts are planning to go back to school for the 2021-22 academic year

While some school districts in the Greater Houston area are doing away with face mask requirements and virtual schooling completely, others are pivoting to continue offering online learning options for students and plan to require face masks.

CDC ends all mask requirements for fully vaccinated people

The guidance states fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks indoors or outdoors.

The festival is estimated to bring in at least $1.1 million to the city. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Conroe music festival in the works

The four-day festival would include more than 30 bands and 40 shows across multiple venues and pop-ups.

Single-family home sales were up 47.4% compared to last April with 9,105 units sold versus 6,175 a year earlier. (Courtesy Houston Association of Realtors)
HAR: Houston-area home sales in April up 47% compared to last year

Single-family home sales were up 47.4% compared to April 2020.

House Bill 1024, signed into law May 12, allows restaurants and bars to permanently sell alcoholic beverages to-go. (Courtesy Pexels)
Cocktails to-go are here to stay in Texas: Gov. Greg Abbott signs change into law May 12

Supporters say the change will help restaurants continue to recover from the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Marcos Pizza is an American restaurant chain. (Courtesy Fishman Public Relations)
Marco's Pizza opening in Conroe May 13

The resataurant is owned by the Lee family, who formerly owned the Donut Wheel in Conroe.

Residents will have until May 2023 to obtain a Real ID. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
US Department of Homeland Security extends Real ID deadline until 2023

Drivers will have until May 2023 to get the Real ID, which will be required for adults boarding a U.S. commercial flight.

Construction on a three-story medical office building is underway at 3786 FM 1488, Conroe, following an April 22 groundbreaking, the development company, Egrets Group, announced in a May 10 release. (Courtesy Egrets Group)
3-story medical office building breaks ground on FM 1488

Construction is anticipated to take a year to complete for the medical office building.