Troubled Harris County Jail Faces First-Ever Federal Inspection

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

HOUSTON (AP) - Government authorities this week are inspecting
the troubled Harris County Jail -- the subject of a federal civil
rights investigation -- to decide whether it's operating lawfully.
The Houston Chronicle reports the U.S. Department of Justice
yesterday launched what's expected to be a five-day inspection of
the jail's downtown facilities.
Officials say this marks the first time federal authorities have
toured the facilities.
The visit follows requests for federal scrutiny after inmate
deaths, overcrowding, poor sanitation and questionable access to
medical treatment and prescription drugs, but federal officials
won't specify what prompted their weeklong stay.
Harris County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Mike Smith says the
state inspects the county jail each April, but a federal visit
hadn't happened, until now.
If the jail investigation finds violations, federal officials
will suggest ways to improve conditions. If those recommendations
aren't met, however, federal law allows the attorney general to sue
the county.
The Harris County Jail isn't the only Texas facility that's been
investigated by federal authorities.
They also inspected the Dallas County Jail. The investigation
exposed deficiencies in that facility's environmental conditions
and its medical and mental health care.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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