Harris County Jail System
The Harris County Jail System is so massive that its operations are divided among four bureau commanders. Two of the bureaus deal exclusively with the housing of inmates, at the 1301 Franklin and 701 North San Jacinto facilities, respectively. The 1301 Housing Command also includes the facility at 301 San Jacinto, while the 701 Housing Command includes a facility at 1307 Baker Street.
Collectively, the jail system houses approximately 8000 inmates, prepares nearly 25,000 meals each day (under the direction of a registered dietitian), and transports 900 inmates to various courts each morning. In 1998, more than 108,000 inmates were booked into the jail system, while more than 91,000 were released, and more than 14,000 were transferred to other detention facilities.
The jail commissary generates gross annual sales of more than $6,000,000. Profits are redirected to fund inmate programs, thereby alleviating the burden to taxpayers.
The Inmate Education Program, in partnership with the Houston Community College System, conducts more than thirty classes, with an average inmate student body of 800. The jail print shop performs print jobs not only for the department, but for other county agencies as well, at an annual cost savings to taxpayers of more than $1,000,000.
The 1301 Franklin facility, opened in 1982, is designed to house a maximum inmate population of 3505. Each floor of the thirteen-story structure occupies 1.5 acres. The building includes huge kitchen, laundry, and commissary operations, in addition to an "outdoor" rooftop recreation area. The structure is connected to the Inmate Processing Center and courthouse facilities by a secured tunnel system.
The 301 San Jacinto facility, site of the Harris County Central Jail from 1956 until 1982, was renovated and reopened to house 417 low-risk inmate workers in 1990. Meals, laundry, and commissary items are delivered to inmates through a tunnel connecting the building to the Franklin Street facility.
The 701 North San Jacinto facility originally opened as the Houston Terminal Warehouse and Cold Storage Facility in the 1920s. The building was gutted, renovated, and reopened as a state-of-the-art 4144-bed jail in 1991. Among American jail structures, only the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail is larger. This facility also features its own kitchen, laundry, and other support operations. Modern design and contemporary inmate supervision philosophy results in a less labor-intensive operation than the Franklin Street jail.
The 1307 Baker Street facility, formerly occupied by the Harris County Community Supervision and Corrections Department, was occupied and reopened by the Sheriff’s Department in 1998. Designed to house 1052 low-risk inmates, it is the least traditional of the department’s jail buildings. Most of the inmate housing areas are designed in an open dormitory style.
The Planning and Evaluation Bureau includes the Courts Division, Detention Training, Inmate Education, Laundry, Food Service, Commissary, and Transportation. Additionally, the Bureau is responsible for the operation of the Inmate Processing Center (IPC) at 1201 Commerce. The IPC is a one-of-a-kind operation that centralizes all booking, intake screening, inmate records, bonding, fine collection, initial medical screening, and classification in a single location.
The Medical Services Bureau includes twelve full-time physician positions on a contract with the University of Texas Medical School-Houston. The bureau employs 162 additional health care professionals and 38 security staff. The Franklin Street facility also contains an in-house unit operated and staffed by the Mental Health Mental Retardation Authority. In 1998, the medical staff performed more than 89,000 intake screening procedures, conducted almost 80,000 radiology tests, dispensed 109,000 prescriptions, and conducted 336,000 inmate examinations. Ours is the largest jail system in the nation to have attained accreditation by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care.
© Harris County Sheriff's Department, 2000