That overlooked two important factors: First, the main risk was flooding; fortunately the worst of Ike barely missed Galveston, but here's the official pre-storm prediction of how a worst-case scenario would have engulfed the jail along with the rest of the island had it happened. (The blog Facing South has an update including post-storm pictures of the jail released yesterday by the Sheriff.)
Second, and this is the problem they're struggling with now - once the storm has passed the jail is stranded in a disaster area with no electricity, running water or working toilets, reported the Houston Chronicle:
"We've been trying to get some power hooked up inside the justice center," [jail architect Dudley] Anderson said. "There's a small one in there now, but they need power." ...It's certainly good news that no one was hurt during the storm at the jail, but that still doesn't make leaving the inmates there a good idea and this story shows why. Just like after Hurricane Katrina, the devastating aftermath in Galveston will continue for quite a while after the storm surge has officially passed. Any idiot could have predicted there would be no electricity and a "lack of water and properly working toilet facilities" at the jail. (A local church is providing charity packages for jailers, but not for inmates.)
Anderson said the only generator in the jail this morning was supplying a small operator area. He had another generator ready to help a bit with air flow, but the large generators expected from the federal government are what he's frustrated about. ...
Anderson said that, without air circulating in the closed facility in this climate, mold and mildew can start growing everywhere. The lack of water and properly working toilet facilities exacerbates the problem, he said. ...
Anderson said that, despite his frustration, he has had cooperation from two fronts: the weather and the inmates.
He said some of the inmates helped him repair the small generator that works in the control area.
And, he said, without the good weather these past few days, the jail area would be in a far worse situation.
Galveston officials are complaining to the press that FEMA hasn't reacted quickly enough to bail them out of their bad decision, but FEMA didn't force the Sheriff to keep his jailers and inmates on the island contrary to evacuation warnings, particularly when his jail doen't have sufficient generators to keep the lights on or air circulation flowing.
Staying on the island wasn't a very wise choice on the Sheriff's part. As I wrote on Friday, many Galveston inmates were sitting in jail awaiting trial or for low-level offenses who could have been released if the county had planned ahead. The rest should have been moved, just like they did with TDCJ inmates and at other coastal jails. Although the threat from the storm has passed, Galveston Island remains essentially uninhabitable and everyone pretty much knew it would be that way at the time the Sheriff made the decision not to move the inmates.