The Cameron County jail division has been reprimanded by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards for having inmates sleep on the jail floors, which violates TCJS rules.Part of Cameron's problem is that, when they built their jail, they built beyond capacity in order to accept contract inmates from the US Marshals Service. For a while they were paying more to house their own inmates elsewhere than the Marshal's Service was paying them for the beds they rent.
An annual inspection of the county jails this week found the county in violation of Section 259.134 of the Texas Administrative Code that deals with multiple occupancy cells, said Adan Muñoz, executive director of the TCJS.
“We did find some noncompliance issues, but mostly they were in regards that they were operating above the approved capacity and the inmates were on the floor, which is in violation of standards,” Muñoz said.
The code specifically states that the floor space in the jail cells should be clear. In Cameron County’s case, inmates were found sleeping on the floors during the inspection, said Shannon Herkoltz, assistant executive director.
“They had available beds, but their deal was they said ‘We are not going to put them in the beds because we don’t have eyes to watch them,’” Herkoltz said. “So in their opinion, it was better to put them on the floor where they had officers stationed.”
The Sheriff's Office tried to spin the news, falsely claiming that this was an "emergency" inspection brought on by media reports, when really it was their usual annual inspection (which as of last session are now performed unannounced). Reported the Herald:
Chief Jail Administrator Mike Leinart told Commissioners Court that TCJS conducted an emergency inspection because of the media reports and “wrote us up.”
“The jail standards was in another county, and when they read that we were losing six jailers in the newspaper, they did an emergency inspection on us. ... They wrote us up and I have to send 60 inmates out today (Thursday).”
County Judge Carlos H. Cascos countered that the reprimand could not have come because of the media reports, because the changes in jailers won’t occur until October.
“They did not come and find the jail not in compliance (because of the number of jailers), because we had not done anything yet,” Cascos said.
Leinart later conceded that TCJS’s action had nothing to do with what action the county was to take Oct. 1.
Cascos said Friday that county commissioners were not given the full story at their meeting Thursday.Sheriffs pretty routinely treat TCJS like the bogeyman, blaming them in the press for problems of their own creation. I find it rather humorous to see them getting caught in a fib over it.
“We were not told that last night that (inmates) were sleeping on the floor. What we were told that the prisoners were moved out because we did not have adequate staffing,” he said.
“It’s disturbing and we need to make every effort to comply with the law and rules set forth by the jail commission,” Cascos said.