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.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?
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.
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?