Harris County's criminal justice system ... continues to use incarceration as its primary way of dealing with individuals with mental illness and low-level drug users. About a quarter of the inmates in the Harris County Jail are taking some kind of medication for mental illness. When looking at the six largest counties in Texas, Harris County leads in the annual number of people per capita it sends to state jail for low-level drug possession of less than one gram.Harrington and Ellis argue that the county should develop a written plan to eliminate extra jail beds and embrace alternatives to incarceration, including several specific examples. See the full letter for details.
Spending taxpayer dollars to incarcerate non-violent offenders would make sense if it made our community safer, but studies show that these options are less effective and more expensive than strategies that divert defendants charged with non-violent crimes from incarceration.
See related, recent Grits coverage.