That’s what came to mind when I read Commissioner Steve Radack had floated the idea of separating the management of Harris County Jail from the Sheriff–whomever it may be.
A revolutionary idea is being pitched that would reshape the law enforcement agency by removing the troubled jail from the sheriff’s responsibilities. One county commissioner is leading the charge to create a new jail administrator who would answer to Commissioners Court rather than the sheriff.
Privatization is not a new idea in Harris County as Radack floated that idea a few years ago.
One thing is for sure, running a jail is a challenging job, especially when one inherits a bad situation that includes a bad internal culture. If a hired county employee as jail administrator is the outcome, there must be a complete culture change at the jail–a culture that allowed employees up and down the jail management hierarchy to lock up a mentally ill man in his own excrement and trash. Frankly, as the debate over law enforcement treatment of people continues, there is obviously some push-back to any change from law enforcement and their fans.
Of course, if the hired hand turns out to be a jail management contract to a private corporation, then that would be a useful political tool for blame if there are ever any future problems. If one company messes up, there is always another to pick up where the other left off. There is enough campaign money in officeholder accounts to make this happen, this much is obvious.
When one other commissioner is talking about “saving money” with this notion, my alarms go off. What do they want to cut? Will mental health and health care be farmed off to some private company that is probably a subsidiary of a private prison corporation?
Obviously, State Law still has jails under the Sheriff and this will be hard to change in the near future. A hired jail administrator may be a good idea if it comes with work toward a culture change within the ranks. But I’m pretty sure this isn’t part of the plan.
Obviously, county citizens need to keep an eye on the Commissioners Court.