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Harris County Jail Employees More Trouble Than Actual Inmates?

The use of excessive force at the Harris County Jail is not news. It’s well known and documented. In fact, a 2009 U.S. Department of Justice report criticized the jail, as well as many others throughout Texas, for what it considered deplorable conditions that resulted in an alarming number of prisoner deaths.

It’s now 2012, and many are wondering if problems at the Harris County Jail still remain. Recent statistics seem to support that they do. Between 2008 and 2010, 200 Harris County Jail employees were disciplined for minor to serious offenses. In 2010, one jailer punched an inmate already in the infirmary; the inmate died the next day. Another jailer punched yet another inmate, leading the inmate to require 14 staples to close the wound left by the blow.

If you’re charged with a crime, your Houston criminal charges attorney can explain the possible penalties you may face, including whether jail time may be part of your sentence. But, what he or she likely cannot explain is why and how employee violence continues to happen at the Harris County Jail and why so many inmates are subject to what can only be considered cruel and unusual punishment.

It is unlikely that family members will find out about the mistreatment of a Harris County Jail inmate unless the inmate tells the family personally. It is the policy of the jail not to discuss incidents in the jail unless an inmate is killed, according to a public affairs director with the Sheriff’s Office. The inmate, discussed above, who died a day after being punched by a jailer was determined to have died of natural causes; his family was not notified of the jailhouse violence.

Some who find themselves in a Texas jail may not yet have even been convicted of committing a crime. Rather, they are awaiting trial because they were unable to post bond to secure release prior to trial. If violence by jail employees continues, before even being found guilty of committing a crime, individuals may face jailhouse violence.

Source: Houston Chronicle, “Discipline problems persist at Harris County Jail,” James Pinkerton, January 29, 2012