Harris County Jail manages the Harris County Jail in downtown Houston as well as the Joint Processing Center. Harris County Sheriff provides jail services for the City of Houston. Harris County Sheriff implemented the following measures to manage COVID-19 infections within the jail.
- First measure is to prevent those infected from entering.
- Screening questions for anyone entering the facility and a doctor will determine if you are admitted to the facility or sent directly to the hospital.
- Complete testing inhouse
- Quarantine measures – four units within the jail are dedicated for quarantine
- Staffing dedicated to only these areas
- Staff and inmates are tested and treated immediately
- Routine germicidal mopping and wall cleaning.
- Adding PPE, masks, and hand washing. Increased germicidal cleaning.
- Suspended in person visitation to minimize spread into the facility on March 14, 2020.
- Compassionate Release program
- 1,500 inmates were released in March and April to reduce population (often people who couldn’t afford bail and this was related to current bail reform efforts). Governor Abbott squashed all compassionate releases through executive order on March 30 that caused confusion and effectively halted all compassionate releases (The Interceptor).
- City-and-Release policy was signed by City of Houston Mayor on September 28, 2020 with the intent of preventing low level inmates from being jailed (McGuinness, 2020; Harab & Debenedetto, 2020). While this was proposed last year and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, an approximately 3,000 people would not have been jailed during the COVID-19 pandemic if it was already in place (Harab & Debenedetto, 2020).
- Harris County houses some inmates outside of the County at the following facilities.
- The Newton County Correctional Facility has suspended all in-person visitation and added video visitation in mid-March 2020 to allow for visitation (The Covington News, 2020)
- LaSalle Correctional Center (Olla, Louisiana) is a privately-run facility that also houses Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees. There have been at least two whistleblower cases and the company was one of four that had to testify before Congress regarding lax protections and under reporting of cases (Ainsley, 2020). Additional information regarding the facility current policies could not be confirmed.
- West Carroll Detention Center (Epps, Louisiana) is a parish (similar to a county) run jail. They have suspended in-person visitation on September 4, 2020 (West Carroll Parish, 2020)
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