Plans for joint processing center moving forward

May. 6, 2013Houston Chronicle

Plans for a county/city joint processing center are moving forward with Harris County Commissioners Court on Tuesday expected to approve a $228,150 agreement with Houston mega-firm Pierce Goodwin Alexander and Linville Inc. to determine the scope of the long-discussed project.

The city of Houston is paying for half the cost of the programming phase, in which details such as the size, specs, location and cost of the facility will be determined.

John Blount, head of the county engineering department, said the so-called processing center is “not going to be as expansive” as a similar proposal that voters rejected in 2007.

The county has been discussing the need for a new booking or processing center for years because its current one has been operating over capacity even as the jail population has fallen. The city is partnering in the effort in hopes of an expanded intake facility allowing it to realize its goal of shuttering its two aging jails.

“The need is still there ,” Blount said. “But we’re not going to have… all the services we had before.”

Blount said the facility will have some amount of short-term housing to allow for a 72-hour holding capacity as the majority of people who are processed are out within three days. He said the proposed site, pending review, is a parking lot across the street from Baker Street jail.

“We need to be close to the jail because if they end up going to the jail, we want to be able to walk them there and not have to transport them,” he said.