Highlights of the ACA Facility Tours

HOUSTON — The American Correctional Association’s (ACA) 2013 Winter Conference took place in Houston, Texas this year. While the trade show floor was booming with exhibitors and attendees, the event was also a chance for people to escape the exhibit hall in order to get up close to some of Texas’ most well known correctional facilities.

Tours took place at the Darrington Unit, a 1,931 male inmate facility in Rosharon; Beauford H. Jester IV Unit, with a male inmate capacity of 550 in Richmond; Joe Kegans State Jail, with an inmate capacity of 667 in Houston; Federal Detention Center — Houston, which houses both male and female inmates in the heart of downtown; Harris County Sheriff’s Office 1200 Baker Street Jail — Houston, the largest county jail in the state of Texas; Harris County Sheriff’s Office Barrier Eliminator Program — Houston, established to reduce recidivism; and Harris County Sheriff’s Office Vocational Training Center — Houston, which provides noncredit educational services to incarcerated individuals.

The tours took place Sunday, Jan. 27 through Tuesday, Jan. 29 and focused on the different aspects of each facility, but all highlighting the efficiency of the operations and building components.

The Darrington Unit facility tour for example, was a 1.5-hour tour that showcased the facility’s educational programs, which include literacy, adult basic education/GED, and career and technology programs including heating, ventilation, air conditioning and automotive services. The Beauford H. Jester IV Unit on the other hand, was a 1.5-hour tour that focused on the medical services provided to inmates at the facility. Since the Jester IV Unit houses all custody levels of male offenders that require in-patient psychiatric treatment, attendees of the tour were able to see the medical services that these inmates are given and the unique structure of the facility.

One of the facility tour highlights was probably the Harris County Sheriff’s Office 1200 Baker Street Jail — Houston. The 603,000-square-foot facility has a maximum capacity of 4,156 inmates, including 108 beds for inmates with mental health needs and 100 beds for those with medical needs. As mentioned, the jail is the largest in Texas and has more than 1,600 employees. The efficiency of the facility was highlighted on the tour, showing the jail operations facility while also highlighting the mental health and medical services provided at the facility. The jail truly is a one-stop shop when it comes to housing inmates with various needs.

The facility tours gave insight into the operations and management of some of Texas’ correctional facilities — giving attendees ideas for their own facilities or just a better understanding of correctional facilities in general. In case you missed the event, the 2013 ACA Summer Conference will take place in National Harbor, Md., on Aug. 9-14 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center.