Troubled Harris County Jail Faces First-Ever Federal Inspection

By: Nicole Morten Email
By: Nicole Morten Email

The Harris County Jail is the subject of a federal civil rights investigation.

Authorities this week are expected to do a five-day inspection of the jail's downtown facilities to decide whether it is operating lawfully.

Officials say this marks the first time federal authorities have toured the Harris County facility.

The visit follows requests for federal scrutiny after inmate deaths, overcrowding, poor sanitation and questionable access to medical treatment and prescription drugs. However, federal officials will not 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 has not happened until now.

If violations arise during the jail investigation, federal officials will then suggest ways to improve conditions. If those recommendations are not met, federal law allows the attorney general to sue the county.

The Harris County Jail is not the only Texas facility that federal authorities have had to investigate. The Dallas County Jail was also inspected. The investigation revealed deficiencies in the facility’s environmental conditions and its medical and mental health care.

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