Houston is far from alone. Amid budget crises, falling tax revenue and national unemployment approaching 10%, jails--usually city- or county-run holding facilities for those serving short sentences or awaiting trial--saw their populations grow nearly twice as fast as state and federal prison populations during the first half of the decade, according to a 2008 report by the Justice Policy Institute. The report says that local governments spent $97 billion on criminal justice in 2004, up 347% since 1982, while detention expenses climbed 519% to $19 billion.
The article goes on to discuss some alternatives being suggested as a means to lower pretrial costs and to lower the jail population. The National Association of Counties, for example, is calling on communities to invest more into pretrial services so that people charged with non-violent offenses who don't need to be confined can be quickly vetted for community programs and the mentally ill can get services.