HOUSTON — Harris County officials may transfer up to 2,000 of its inmates outside county lines if a commissioners court approves a new plan to solicit bids from jailers next week, but it is unclear whether they will remain in Texas or be moved out of state.
The county spent $17 million last year housing inmates in jails across Texas and Louisiana under contracts the sheriff’s office negotiated with receiving jailers, but commissioners last June attacked contract rates as too expensive. Louisiana rates start at $29 a day per inmate while Texas rates run upwards of $42, but the county only housed 381 of its overflow inmates in Louisiana while the other 1,221 went to jails in other Texas counties.
If the court approves the new plan, the purchasing agent, which took over the contracts from the sheriff’s office after the expensive contracts were discovered, will request interested bidders to submit their lowest rates for accepting inmates. Bid specifications state that the contract is worth $20 million.
Harris County has exceeded its 9,400-inmate capacity for several years. Voters rejected a bond measure in 2007 to build a new jail.
The county sends overflow inmates to other county jails in Texas and to privately run jails in Louisiana. Bidding jailers are not required to be public.