Sunday, June 10, 2012

Harwell jail security in an uproar over broken A/C

Female prisoners to be transferred to Harwell
Guards accused of having sex with inmates

Waco – Corrections officers are preparing to send all female prisoners housed at the County Jail across the alley to the Jack Harwell Detention Center.

As a morning routine, they report to work at 06:45 and often get a list of the 20 or so female prisoners who will be transferred to the Jack Harwell Detention Center.

Things will be different come Monday.

By 7 a.m., the corrections officers are putting women in belly chains and getting ready to march them the short distance from the sallyport of the county lockup to the prisoner transfer entrance across the alley at the Jack Harwell Detention Center, according to a confidential source who refused to be named for this report.

“It's back and forth, back and forth – all the time,” the source said.

Jack Harwell is a medium security facility that houses about 900 prisoners. It's operated by CEC, Inc., and county prisoners are housed there at an enhanced cost to taxpayers of $45.50 per day.

At that cost, each weekend, the taxpayers are soaked with a minimum $455 for every ten prisoners displaced by weekend inmates serving time on Saturdays and Sundays for minor offenses. Moving 20 prisoners per day to the privately operated lockup costs a cool $1,000.

Lately, there is a wrinkle in the scheme of things. The air conditioning equipment is malfunctioning in the A-wing on Saturday, the women's unit of the County Jail on Highway 6, and the lockup is on an open floor plan during the day.

Female prisoners are stuck in their cells with little or no ventilation. 

At the Jack Harwell facility, the cell doors are left open to the corridors, which are left open from the tank area to the recreation yard in order to let outside air circulate into the building and exhaust through the fans on the roof. The doors to other tanks are also open, and inmates can freely walk from one area to another, areas in which they are not authorized to be housed. 

Temperatures reached 100 degrees inside the women's wing of the County Jail during the day Sunday. Air conditioning has been on the blink for a couple of weeks at the Jack Harwell Detention Center.

Commission on Jail Standards inspectors will be at the County Jail on Monday morning to see if the facility is in shape to handle the maximum number of prisoners.

The problem:

It's all about classification of offenders – who's violent and aggressive and who may be mentally retarded, either from birth defects or from substance abuse issues. There are the con-wise - people who have previously served hard time - and the first-time offenders, some of whom are doing their county time only on the weekends.

"We've every type of inmate from Baylor girls who got caught shoplifting panties at Victoria's Secret to women who have led a hardened life of organized crime."

All are classified as the same under present conditions, according to the source.

“It makes no sense,” the individual said in an exclusive interview for this news report. What's more, it's a radical new departure from the way things have been done in the past.

Inmates returning to the custody of the McLennan County Sheriff's Office ask to speak to investigators. They report that female inmates are having sex with CEC guards, who supply them with cigarettes and allow them to smoke them, a violation of the rules for inmates.

“They write reports, and that's as far as it goes,” the source reported.

In previous times, once an inmate developed a reputation for violent and aggressive behavior toward staff or other inmates, they were kept in what is known as Administrative Segregation, their access to less violence-prone inmates kept to a minimum by increasing their security status to maximum.

All that is now out the window, according to the confidential source, a veteran corrections officer with more than a decade of experience under both the previous and present jail administrations.

“After CEC came in, under the new system, you start all over, and you are medium security or low security - until you catch a new case.”

So former offenders have to re-offend before the department's classification officers change their security status to that which would preclude their being housed in the areas controlled by CEC, Inc.

The Jack Harwell Detention Center is certified only for inmates with low to medium security risk classifications.

The McLennan County Commissioners Court will be making a decision later this month on whether to renew a maintenance and operations contract with the New Jersey corporation to continue to run the courthouse annex jail adjacent to the courthouse.

According to the confidential source interviewed for this report, common wisdom within the corrections staff has it that all the female prisoners will be moved to the downtown lockup when it is again operational following roof repairs and extensive remodeling.

A telling anecdote:

One day, they were moving female inmates to the Jack Harwell Detention Center when a newcomer to the jail population asked, “What's the difference between these two jails.”

The answer:

“Over here at the County Jail, the corrections officers run the jail. At the Jack Harwell Detention Center, the inmates run things.”


  1. I guess we are paying Lynch $12000 a year to overSEE the Harwell center,I guess he made a walk thru,then there is the race for tax collector,a democrat runs under the republican party name and voted all his life as a democrat,not a conservative ,where is the tea party,I GUESS THERE BACKING A LIBERAL.

  2. Why are there no comments,the sheriff is overseeing this,where is Tody, the tea party specialist.

  3. Lynch and Plemons belong in jail, instead of getting paid to oversee one. The present Sheriff's office administration will have everything so screwed up by the end of the year that it will take years to repair the damage that their incompetence and corruption has caused.

  4. When are Lynch and Plemons going to be investigated?? This is exactly why the voters finally stood up against Lynch, Plemons and the illegal money that was backing them and their practices. Someone needs to put a stop to these men before they take their show on the road in January.

  5. Great security measures. I'm sure that CEC would just let them all roam free if they could figure out a way to charge the county and milk the taxpayers out of more money. This faurd has gone on long enough, investigate Lynch, Plemons, Vanek, Wash and CEC!!!

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