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Harris County Jail out of state compliance due to sanitation, food service

The sheriff's office has 30 days to file a corrective action plan with the state. Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said his office would identify shortcomings and determine root causes to determine how to correct the problem.
Harris County Jail

HOUSTON — The Harris County Jail is out of compliance in two areas after an unannounced inspection this week by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.

Inspectors found “certain areas of each building were not being kept at an acceptable level of cleanliness” at the jail. The inspection also found that “hot foods were not up to health codes (temperature) prior to the food being distributed to the inmate housing areas.”

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office announced the jail commission’s findings Friday.

“We take the care, custody and control of our inmate population seriously, and our team is committed to bringing the jail back into full compliance in the very near future,” Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said. “We respect the Jail Commission’s findings and will work diligently to correct each issue identified by the inspectors.”

More than 9,000 inmates are housed at the facility, which is reviewed in 23 different areas by the jail commission. Twenty-one of those areas are in compliance, the sheriff’s office notes. Harris County joins roughly two dozen others on the state’s list of non-compliant jails, including Liberty County near Houston.

The inspection this week comes about three months after an inmate was found hanging from a door in a common area on the fourth floor of the 1200 Baker Street jail building in August.

The jail commission determined in an Aug. 23 inspection report that 58-year-old Debora Ann Lyons was not observed every 30 minutes prior to being discovered, which is a requirement.

“While the jailer made a round within the required time period in the inmates' cellblock, the jailer did not view the inmate face-to-face due to the inmate leaving the cellblock for medicine call and never returning,” the Aug. 23 report states.

In response to this week’s report, Gonzalez ordered an internal review to identify causes of the deficiencies and solutions.

The sheriff’s office has 30 days to file a corrective action plan with the state.