Harris Co. Program Lowers Jail Costs, Population but Cuts out Punishment


By Larry Seward

Hundreds of low-level, mentally ill offenders cycle in and out the Harris County jail each year. A first-of-its-kind program in Texas, though, is cutting costs and cutting out punishment. One pale pink and cream midtown mid-rise tantalizes town commissions in charge of crowded, expensive jails around Texas.  They see Harris County booking hundreds fewer offenders since the Judge Ed Emmett Mental Health Diversion Center opened in September 2018. Its cost includes allowing people with mental illness who commit non-violent offenses to skip jail. They are offered space in the 28-bed diversion center, counseling and case workers to prevent the person arrested from cycling in and out of jail.

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