Built by Ayres in Classical Revival to complement the courthouse, the county jail received additions in the 1920s due to continued population growth. According to public records, the last addition in 1930 created resentment by local architects over the selection of San Antonio–based Ayres for such a substantial public commission. The facility was renovated in 1993 as an office for attorneys, with interior floor plan, doors, bars, and jail cells intact.
The jail towers over the Fourth Ward, or Barrio Buena Vida, a traditionally working-class neighborhood where, historically, the majority of citizens of Mexican origin resided in Brownsville. Today, the area is notable for its small, side-gabled, board-and-batten cottages sited close to the street and facing the alleys.