Judge orders the re-inspection of troubled jail near Houston

Texas

LIBERTY, Texas (AP) — A Texas judge has ordered a new inspection of a privately run jail near Houston where prisoners have escaped in recent months and an inmate has died.

Florida-based The GEO Group, Inc. has operated Liberty County Jail since last year.

In the last 60 days, two prisoners have fled from the jail, an on-duty correctional officer was arrested for theft, and a prisoner hanged himself.

There are no sheriff’s deputies at the facility, which has already failed two inspections this year. The Texas Commission on Jail Standards filed a report showing the first inspection, in April, uncovered four violations. The second inspection, in June, revealed six infractions, with many of the same maintenance issues not having been fixed.

The commission in August subsequently threatened to cut the jail’s capacity from 285 to 144 beds if GEO didn’t come into compliance. The move would have forced GEO to find beds outside of Liberty County to house inmates.

But on Tuesday, a county judge ordered another inspection before the commission reconvenes in November, the Houston Chronicle reported.

“It is concerning to us,” said County Judge Jay Knight. “The county is not responsible for the day-to-day operations of the jail. It’s GEO alone, but by statute, the sheriff is over the jail,” Knight explained.

The commission had planned to meet Thursday to consider authorizing the Liberty County purchasing agent to allow bidding requests for a new jail contract.

In the last week, the GEO chief at the jail resigned and the warden took sick leave the same day for 30 days.

Jackie Edwards, the jail’s new interim warden, said that the facility was down five positions that he wanted to fill with a new class, according to Liberty County Sheriff Bobby Rader.

GEO officials declined to comment.

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Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com

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