Harris County Jail inspection report reveals worrying staff shortage affecting inmates and staff

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) – A Texas Workforce Commission inspection of prison standards found the low-paying Harris County Jail, which inspectors believe contributes to more than 1,000 staff were assaulted by inmates in 2021.

In 2017, there were 46 reports of inmates assaulting employees, according to the Harris County Deputies Organization. In 2021, there were 1,265 reports.

The most recent incident involved a female sergeant being assaulted and assaulted inside her office at the prison. Jeremiah Williams has been charged with two counts of sexual assault. Court records show Williams has been released from prison on other sexual assault charges.

SEE MORE: Harris County sergeant was brutally assaulted and sexually assaulted by inmate, sheriff’s office said

A recent inspection report from November 15 to 17 describes several issues with staff shortages.

“Minimum staffing has a direct impact on our ability to provide a safe and secure environment for prisoners and prison staff in areas such as enforcing prison rules, ensuring housing inmates’ cleanliness, provided enough staff to support housing administrators, and may have contributed to the Report.

“We need people,” said Senator John Whitmire of Texas.

Whitmire told ABC 13 that the inspectors conducting the report feared for their own safety.

“They were faced with and felt unsafe while doing prison inspection,” Whitmire said.

According to the report, all prisoners must be screened in person, no less than once an hour. Prisoners who are aggressive, likely to commit suicide or have any other related behavior should be screened every 30 minutes.

However, the inspectors reported this did not happen. Instead, some head-to-head observations occurred between rounds of 90 to 144 minutes. The report said that in some cases officers said they were simply understaffed.

The Harris County Jail is supposed to have one officer for every 48 inmates. According to the test, the way they are meeting this rate is difficult. The prison is using supervisors and essential staff to deal with housing unit assignments, causing them to leave their jobs to meet rates.

“Right now, we have no control over our inmates,” said David Cuevas, president of the Harris County Deputies Organization. “Right now, the inmates are running the prison.”

Judge Lina Hidalgo’s office sent ABC13 the following statement:

“This latest alleged assault at the county jail is so gruesome. No public servant or prisoner for that matter, can be in a position where their safety is questioned simply because they are in a prison The status quo is unacceptable, and we must do everything we can to make sure this kind of serious trouble doesn’t happen again. committed to doing everything possible to ensure the sheriff’s office has the resources it needs to improve prison conditions We have agreed to a request from the sheriff’s office to address staffing and safety issues security, from increasing officers’ salaries and funding the facility, to increasing recruitment of detention officers.All those involved in the system must also deal with unacceptable backlogs. In our criminal court system, on average, inmates are spending 202 days in county jail awaiting trial, and this also plays an unfortunate role in our lives. Among the systemic problems that prisons are facing due to prison overcrowding are significant. That’s why we’ve invested so much in reducing our backlog and will continue to do so. “

A district judge’s spokesperson also said prison funding has increased from $186 million in 2017 to $245 million in 2022.

Whitmire said the results from the November inspection, calling the prison non-compliant, would require the county to increase staffing or risk reducing the prison population.

He also said a state takeover of the Harris County Jail could be an option.

“Consider all options, including state intervention, put constants, DPS,” says Whitmire.

Copyright © 2021 KTRK-TV. Copyright Registered. Harris County Jail inspection report reveals worrying staff shortage affecting inmates and staff

Dais Johnston

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