UPDATED: Friday, April 13, 2012 - 8:53am
County Judge Candidate, Ralph Cooper, says no to the Jack Harwell Detention Center. He says the public deserves to know why the jail was built.
Cooper says it will never be filled to capacity, and that means it's just not worth the money. "It's a decision that never should have been made," says Cooper. "It is Jim Lewis' biggest mistake of his career, and he is trying to cover it up and say it's not relevant. Well, it is relevant because the taxpayers are at risk for having to pay for his mistake."
At current occupancy of 359 inmates, the jail is making less than $300,000 a year.
To pay for the $49 million it cost to build this jail, it needs to be 90% full. Today, it is less than half.
Cooper tells us taxpayers will end up holding the bag with as much as a 3% tax increase.
Judge Lewis responded by saying, "The jail is not costing tax payers any money, and it's not ever going to because investors built the jail, not the county. The county will own the jail, debt free without costs in 20 years."
We're told the county needs to house more inmates to make money and has only signed one contract to house Harris county inmates for nearly 45 dollars a person. Police officials say they are always looking to pick up more inmates for the jail.
Cooper says the court needs to establish a citizens commission to figure out other ways the jail can be used to generate money.