Harris County, Texas jails

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Harris County, Texas jails
701 Jail, one of the jails in the complex
LocationHouston, Texas, United States
Governing bodyHarris County Sheriff's Office

The government of Harris County, Texas maintains its main jail complex in Downtown Houston, Texas. The complex, operated by the Harris County Sheriff's Office (HCSO), lies in the peninsula formed by the Buffalo Bayou in northern Downtown. While most of the complex is based on county jails serving Harris County, Joe Kegans State Jail is also located within the complex. The Harris County District Court is located just next to the jail complex.


In 2007 there was a proposal to construct a jail facility with a bond worth $245 million, but voters rejected it.[1]

In 2021 prisoners reported problems with the plumbing system and lack of heat during the 2021 Texas power crisis.[2]

In 2022 the jails had higher assault rates compared to other large jails in the state.[3] By then the rate of prisoner deaths also increased.[4] Lucio Vasquez of Houston Public Media stated that Texas Senate Bill 6, which ended many forms of cashless bail, may be contributing to overcrowding and deaths.[5] As of October 2022, over 10,000 inmates are in the jail complex.[6] As of November 2022, 24 prisoners in the jail complex died in custody in the year 2022.[7]

In 2022, 80% of the prisoners are classified as having mental health issues, and as of November 2022, more than 12 of the deaths in custody had documented issues with mental health.[7]

By December 18, 2022, 27 prisoners in Harris County custody had died in the year 2022.[8]

On February 15, 2023, the Federal Bureau of Investigation opened a federal civil rights investigation into the jail after dozens of inmate deaths in the past few years: 21 in 2021, 28 in 2022, and 4 in the first two months of 2023. The investigation will look into the February 2021 death of Jaquaree Simmons, and the January 2023 death of Jacoby Pillow. An earlier internal investigation into Simmons's death by the Harris County Sheriff's Office led to 11 firings, 6 suspensions, and one corrections worker charged for manslaughter.[9]


As of 2012 the Harris County jail facilities together have a capacity for 9,434 inmates; at time they have held over 12,000. Due to the excess number of prisoners, the HCSO had to ship inmates to other jails, including some in Louisiana; in June 2010 1,600 Harris County inmates were serving time at other jails. By January 2012 the Harris County jails had 8,573, a decrease by 31% from 2008 to 2012, and there were only 21 inmates serving time in other jail facilities, all in Texas.[10]

The number of insane inmates in the jails increased since the Texas Legislature cut its community mental health services funding by $400 million in 2003. Between 2004 and 2009 the population of the Harris County jails increased from 7,648 to 11,546. From 2003 to 2011 the number of full-time psychiatrists increased from three to eleven. As of 2011 25% of prisoners require mental health services. Of them, 90% had been previously placed in the Harris County jail.[11]

Complex and facilities[edit]

The Harris County jail complex consists of three county jails and the Joe Kegans State Jail.[citation needed]

1200 Jail[edit]

The 1200 Jail, the headquarters of the Harris County Sheriff's Office

The 1200 Jail (located at 1200 Baker Street) opened on January 23, 2003.[12] The 1200 Jail has the administrative offices of the Sheriff's Department. The building has 603,000 square feet (56,000 m2) of space, and it has a 100,000 square feet (9,300 m2) parking garage. The facility, which has 4,156 regular beds, 124 beds for the Medical Division, and 96 beds for MHMRA, is one American football field deep and two American football fields in length. 430 sheriff's deputies and detention officers work at the facility. The facility houses an inmate classification center. Each floor has counseling rooms, MHMRA examination/interview rooms, multi-purpose rooms, a recreation area, triage rooms. The fourth floor houses women. The sixth floor houses a law library and vocational rooms. The jail offers New Choices, a substance abuse program.[13] The 1200 Jail includes a large medical clinic, a dental facility, an infirmary, mental health facilities, a pharmacy, an x-ray facility.[12]

701 Jail[edit]

The 701 Jail (located at 701 North San Jacinto Street) is one of the largest detention facilities in the United States.[14] The seven floor 701 Jail has 4,144 inmate beds. The 701 Jail, originally a five-story building to be used as a cold storage warehouse,[15] opened in the late 1920s. The Houston Terminal Warehouse and Cold Storage Facility was constantly occupied throughout its history. In 1989 the county completed the planning and design stage of its new jail. The cold storage portion was allowed to thaw, and construction on the facility began in December of that year.[14] The facility was gutted and two floors were added.[15] The 701 Jail opened in August 1991.[14] Harris County stated that the re-use of the warehouse saved the county about $21,000,000. About 600 sheriff's deputies and detention officers work in the facility. The county designates the 701 Jail as a "Direct Observation" facility, where staff members monitor inmates continuously for 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.[15] In 2002 the 701 Jail was the second largest American jail, with the Los Angeles County Men's Central Jail of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department being the largest.[16]

1307 Jail[edit]

The 1307 Jail (located at 1307 Baker Street[16]), located east of the 701 Jail, was originally built as a state jail for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.[17] The building was at first occupied by the Harris County Community Supervision and Corrections Department. The building reopened under the Sheriff's office in 1998.[16] As of 2010 the Harris County Sheriff's Office is leasing the facility. The 1,070 inmate beds are located in two wings. The county designates this jail as a "Semi-Direct Observation," where staff members monitor inmates in the dormitory area continuously for twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week. One lieutenant, nine sergeants, and 112 sheriff's deputies and detention officers staff the jail. The jail also has the Farm Shop, a place where stray livestock confiscated by the Sheriff are kept.[17]

Joe Kegans State Jail[edit]

The Joe Kegans State Jail is a Texas state jail that generally houses inmates from Harris County serving shorter term felonies. It is the only jail in the complex that is a state facility in contrast to a county jail.

Former facilities[edit]

The 850,000 square feet (79,000 m2) 1301 Franklin facility opened on September 13, 1982.[18] The county built the jail due to the aftermath of the early 1980s Alberti lawsuit.[19] The jail, with 13 stories and a basement, had the HCSO's administrative offices. The facility opened on September 13, 1982, and had the capacity to house around 4,000 inmates.[18] After the opening of the 1200 Jail on January 23, 2003, the former Franklin facility was no longer used as a jail.[12] Currently the HCSO's Crime Scene Unit, Emergency Dispatch Center(EDC), Warrants and A.F.I.S is housed in the building.[20]

The 301 San Jacinto facility is a former jail. Before 1982 a portion of the 3rd floor had the headquarters of the HCSO. Three floors housed inmates. The basement had the booking, kitchen, laundry, and releasing areas. The commissary operated in a room on one of the housing floors. The Alberti lawsuit forced the county to build additional jails. In 2002 400 trustees were housed in the top four floors in the building. As of the same year administrative offices, court processing/holding cells, and visitation facilities were in the basement.[19] The facility's formal capacity was 409.[21]

Other facilities[edit]

The Crites Vocational Center is away from the main jail area.[22]


In the middle of the 1970s the county government established job training courses for inmates of the county jail. The state of Texas provided funding. Houston Community College (HCC) assisted with the program.[22] Vocational programs happen around Downtown and have done so since September 2004, when the former Atascocita boot camp, which once housed the programs, was closed.[22][23]

The jail no longer has animal husbandry programs as generally prisoners no longer are positioned for agricultural careers. The jail officers discontinued wearing cowboy boots, television and radio repair was deemed obsolete, and the county authorities began purchasing furniture instead of reupholstering existing pieces; these actions resulted in the end of leathercraft, radio and television repair, and upholstery programs.[22]

Previously the jail only had job training for male inmates in certain programs but by 2019 began admitting female inmates into these programs.[22]

In previous eras prisoners who still had the right to vote, as in prisoners who were not convicted of felony offenses, received mail-in ballots so they could vote elections. In 2021 the jail set up a dedicated center for voting. In November of that year 96 prisoners voted.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Murphy, Bill (2007-11-07). "Harris County jail bond defeated; 5 others win approval". Houston Chronicle. Archived from the original on 2018-09-11. Retrieved 2018-09-11.
  2. ^ Shepherd, Katie (2021-02-19). "Texas inmates stuck with clogged toilets, freezing cells, advocates say: 'So cold that their bodies are numb'". Houston Chronicle. Archived from the original on 2021-02-21. Retrieved 2021-02-26.
  3. ^ Flahive, Paul (2022-01-25). "Advocates and jailers fear riot conditions as violence persists in Harris County". Houston Public Media. Archived from the original on 2022-01-25. Retrieved 2022-01-26.
  4. ^ Gundu, Krish; Reinhart, Eric (2022-10-25). "Why Are In-Custody Deaths Surging at Houston's Harris County Jail?". Slate. Retrieved 2022-10-28.
  5. ^ Vasquez, Lucio (2022-11-03). "Senate Bill 6 may be contributing to a record number of deaths at Harris County Jail". Houston Public Media. Retrieved 2022-11-05.
  6. ^ González Kelly, Sam (2022-10-05). "2 die at Harris County jail as critics blame unsafe conditions for highest death toll in years". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2022-11-05.
  7. ^ a b Dewan, Shaila (2022-11-22). "Jail Is a Death Sentence for a Growing Number of Americans". The New York Times. Retrieved 2022-11-24.
  8. ^ "Harris Co. jail saw record number deaths in 2022 after new case reveals 31-year-old died by homicide while in-custody". KPRC-TV. 2022-12-18. Retrieved 2022-12-18.
  9. ^ Heyward, Giulia (February 15, 2023). "Dozens of inmates have died in a Houston jail since 2021. Now the FBI is investigating". NPR. Retrieved February 16, 2023.
  10. ^ Morris, Mike (2012-01-06). "Thanks to less crowding, overflow inmates staying in Harris". Houston Chronicle. Archived from the original on 2018-09-11. Retrieved 2018-09-11.
  11. ^ Hart, Patricia Kilday. "Mental health facility? The county jail Archived 2019-07-11 at the Wayback Machine." Houston Chronicle. Tuesday November 15, 2011. Retrieved on November 23, 2011.
  12. ^ a b c "Medical Archived 2010-02-01 at the Wayback Machine." Harris County Sheriff's Office. Retrieved on May 28, 2010.
  13. ^ "The 1200 Jail Archived 2010-10-25 at the Wayback Machine." Harris County Sheriff's Office. Retrieved on May 28, 2010.
  14. ^ a b c "701 North San Jacinto." Harris County Sheriff's Office. Retrieved on May 28, 2010.
  15. ^ a b c "The 701 Jail Archived 2008-05-17 at the Wayback Machine." Harris County Sheriff's Office. Retrieved on May 28, 2010.
  16. ^ a b c "Harris County Jail System." Harris County Sheriff's Office. February 12, 2003. Retrieved on May 28, 2010.
  17. ^ a b "The 1307 Jail Archived 2011-02-13 at the Wayback Machine," Harris County Sheriff's Office. Retrieved on May 28, 2010.
  18. ^ a b "1301 Franklin facility." Harris County Sheriff's Office. February 22, 2003. Retrieved on May 28, 2010.
  19. ^ a b "301 San Jacinto." Harris County Sheriff's Office. Retrieved on May 28, 2010.
  20. ^ "Crime Scene Unit Archived 2010-09-01 at the Wayback Machine." Harris County Sheriff's Office. Retrieved on May 28, 2010.
  21. ^ "1301 Inmate Housing Bureau". Harris County Sheriff's Office. Archived from the original on 1998-02-20. Retrieved 2019-07-12.
  22. ^ a b c d e Blakinger, Keri (2019-08-08). "Changing times: Harris County jail expands vocational classes to include women". Houston Chronicle. Archived from the original on 2019-08-11. Retrieved 2019-08-11.
  23. ^ Tilghman, Andrew (2004-08-29). "Harris County turns away from boot camps". Houston Chronicle. Archived from the original on 2019-08-11. Retrieved 2019-08-11.
  24. ^ Scherer, Jasper; Barned-Smith, St. John (2021-11-03). "For the first time in Texas, inmates now have a polling place of their own at Harris County Jail". Houston Chronicle. Archived from the original on 2021-11-24. Retrieved 2021-11-23.

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