At a June 4 meeting, Harris County Commissioners approved an estimated $122 million to address some of the most immediate needs throughout various Harris County jail facilities.

As summer temperatures continue to rise in Harris County, failure to address the various facilities’ needs could result in continued maintenance and operational issues at the existing facilities, including system failures, according to two appointed jail committees that focus on the jail conditions.

The impact

Immediate needs within the facilities are safety and security measures, as well as deferred maintenance items including fire safety, plumbing, electrical, heating ventilation and air conditioning systems.

At the facility at 701 N. San Jacinto St., Houston, major system components that need attention were identified by the jail advisory committees and include, but are not limited to:

  • Plumbing: replacing restroom lavatories, water boilers, water distribution pumps and corroded sanitary waste piping throughout the building
  • HVAC: replacing heating hot and chilled water pumps, unit heaters and fans throughout the building
  • Fire protection: replacing the full fire alarm system
  • Electrical: replacing fluorescent lighting in the loading dock, replacing aged transformers

The background

In March, Harris County Commissioners approved two committees aimed at bringing community engagement and transparency within the planning and implementation process. The Harris County Jail and Community Safety Infrastructure Governance Advisory Committee (JGAC) and a Resident Advisory Committee presented a plan for immediate priority needs for the jail at the June 4 commissioners court meeting.

The primary focus of the JGAC is to make recommendations that improve jail facilities for the safety and security of the people incarcerated as well as the staff working in the facilities.

The cost

Examples of high-cost priority items on the committees' needs list include:

  • More than $79 million for additional floors, renovations, refurbishment and upgrades to the facility at 701 N. San Jacinto St., Houston
  • More than $13 million for complete floor renovations on the 7th floor of the facility at 701 N. San Jacinto St., Houston
  • More than $5 million for a fire sprinkler system at the facility at 1200 Baker St., Houston

The timeline

The JGAC plans to work closely with the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council to ensure improvements to the criminal justice system as a whole will be addressed, according to county documents. The following deliverable items are to be presented to Harris County Commissioners:

  • June 25: Phase 1 of a jail population profile
  • End of 2024: A prioritized list of mid-term and long-term needs at the jail and proposed recommendations

As of press time, Community Impact did not hear back from county officials on how the $122 million will be funded.

Dig deeper

Seven officials from throughout the county make up the JGAC committee, including:

  • Sheriff’s Office: Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez
  • Judge’s Office: Kaylee Stephenson
  • Precinct 1: Brandon Dudley
  • Precinct 2: Matt Garry
  • Precinct 3: Roger Bridgwater
  • Precinct 4: Saumya Rana
  • Office of County Administration: Diana Ramirez