Thursday, May 04, 2006

Guard fears retaliation for revealing Harris County inmates still sleep on floors

When the Texas Commission on Jail Standards meets this morning at 9 a.m. in Austin (see the agenda), they'll be told by the Harris County Sheriff's Department that no more inmates sleep on the floor at the Harris County Jail, which recently failed its third annual inspection in a row. Last summer as many as 1,700-1,900 inmates slept on mattresses on the jailhouse floor because of excessive incarceration of probationers, reduced access to personal bonds and guard shortages.

Now the Sheriff says the problem is fixed, but one of his own jailers says that's not true. Reported the Houston Chronicle ("Jail system's crowding cited," May 4):

Harris County Sheriff Tommy Thomas, whose office operates the jail, acknowledged Wednesday that, because of a shortage of guards, some prisoners are being housed in areas designed to house a small number of inmates, and that some inmates have had to sleep in temporary bunks.

A temporary bunk is a rectangular piece of metal with four legs that sits about 4 inches off the ground. Inmates sleep on mattresses placed on the steel structures. But some inmates, said a Harris County guard, are forced to sleep on mattresses on the floor, sometimes next to toilets,

"That happens frequently," said the guard, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation.

"Some inmates just have a mattress — if they're lucky — and their bed is just whatever spot on the floor they can find."

Thomas denied that inmates are sleeping on the floor. The commission report did not state how many inmates are without regular bunks. Last year, inspectors reported that almost 1,300 inmates were sleeping on the floor.

So Harris County's official position before the Jail Commission will probably re-state Sheriff Thomas' claim that no prisoners still sleep on the floor, but a guard who feared retaliation says it "frequently" happens. Hmmmm. Who to believe?

This isn't the first time a Harris County Sheriff's deputy accused his boss of manipulating the Jail Standards Commission. Last year, reported the Chronicle, "Speaking on the condition of anonymity, ... two jailers charged that Sheriff's Office officials sometimes hid inmates from state inspectors. 'They played a game of musical inmates,' said one jailer, who also is a deputy sheriff. 'They would take them from one building to another through the tunnel system.'"

Whaddya think? Should the Commission accept the Sheriff's claims at face value? Would you? What's going on at the Harris County Jail?

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

The answer is in your article. Nobody sleeps on floors. They all sleep on mattresses. Some mattresses are on the floor, is all. And if some sleeping on the floor don't have a mattress, they just sleep on the paint, and the paint is on the floor.

You just have to learn how to read the fine print.

Anonymous said...

You need to ask the Sheriff how many inmates are in jail for MRP (technical violations) of their probation....you would be shocked.
Then ask the Judges why they are filling the jail with people who have done nothing more that piss off their PO and/or judge.
Then ask Harris Couty Probation why they are not doing their job of rehabilitating their probationers.

Celtictexan said...

So what?

Anonymous said...

Take a look at the Eagle Companies 96 bed facilities. www.jailcells.com They lease them. We need to keep criminals locked up or we will end up looking like Iraq/Iran whick are basically lawless socities

Tim Tobin

Anonymous said...

The answer to this problem is obvious. The county can charge the state roughly $66 a day per inmate (and more sadly, juveniles are apparently included). Jail as many people as possible, make it next to impossible to contact anyone, and hold them as long as possible. This makes money for Harris county. This is a county wide effort (judges, sherrif, jailers). There are definately ALOT of people in the Harris county jail that should not be there. Non-violent, first time offenders ARE SLEEPING ON THE FLOOR next to toilets for days and they have empty bunks in the building! They blame it on lack of staff, but why not utilize trustees, overtime, volunteers, temp staff? That is not a good excuse. Most people in jail deserve to be there for extended periods, but what about the +/- 25% that do not. This whole deal stinks and Harris county needs to get hit in the pocket book to correct this problem.

Anonymous said...

I am in agreement with the last post. Harris county need to be hit in the pocket. this shit about a shortage is BS. What does the shortage have to do with inmates sleeping on the floor. Ofcourse, the inmate does not have many rights but a bed is the least they can do. You are right! what about those that does not belong there and are being mistreated. I am keeping a close watch on the Jail system.

Anonymous said...

Please contact the Texas Governer's office about conditions at the Harris County Jail. Ask them to enforce recent orders from the Jail Commission.