Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cameron jail fails inspection over understaffing, inmates sleeping on floor

The Cameron County Jail failed an inspection because inmates were sleeping on the floor - not because beds weren't available but because the jail was understaffed and couldn't monitor an additional wing. Reported the Brownsville Herald:
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.

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.”
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.

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.

“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.
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.


Anonymous said...

December 2010 Inspection- I just don't get it how they stay in operation and are not closed down.

Deborah said...

Grits, I did not know where to post this or to get ahold of you, but what do you know about the cuts in the budget and the inmates being fed 1350 calories per day? My husband says they have cut the portions so drastically, that the men all walk around starving! One example; a piece of "pepper steak" the size of a hard ball that is mostly soy mixed with beef and pepper sprinkled, one tablespoon each of beans and peas, and that is it! Now on the menu it may LOOK like a healthy meal, but when you cut the calories of grown men from 2200 cals to 1350, there is going to be trouble! They only serve TWO meals on Saturday and Sundays now, and a sample breakfast: A Tablespoon scrambled eggs, a tablespoon of applesauce, and a small piece of dry bread; for the last 'Holiday Dinner' which was Labor Day, they were served A CORNDOG, a tablespoon of beans and a tiny piece of plain cake! OMG! For those who cannot afford the commissary prices (which they have raised!) and who are working in the field, that does not make for a healthy environment. But ask anyone who does not have a loved one who is incarcerated, and they are like "who cares" kind of attitude, like the applause at the first Republican Debate when the announcer proclaimed the number of people that Rick Perry has put to death! Is this the way people believe-- lock'em up and leave'em and stare'em to death? Is that humane? It is NOT like they can just hop on down to the local convenience store and buy food! Come-on Texas, we can do better than to starve people!