Athens Review, Athens, Texas

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July 2, 2014

Prisoners not secured

Athens — The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office expects to get prisoners from Van Zandt County that have to be moved temporarily, by order of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.   

The problem is a failure in the locking system at the jail in Canton. Prisoners were not secured, and could enter and exit their cells freely.

Commissioners Court approved a contract on Tuesday to hold the prisoners for $30 per day, per inmate. Henderson County Sheriff Ray Nutt told the Commissioners Court on Tuesday that he was uncertain as to how long the VZ county inmates would be housed here.

“There’s no way to tell. It could be one day or 30 days,” Nutt said.

The time it takes to fix the problem, then get Jail Standards approval, would determine how long the prisoners will be in Henderson County.

Nutt said Van Zandt County would send up to 100 prisoners. Henderson County could hold more in its 508-bed facility, but is 15 detention officers short of being fully-staffed, due to turnover.  Nutt said he wants to leave a few beds available for prisoners to be transferred from Smith County, which has been consistently sending inmates to Henderson County due to overcrowding in their jail.

“We could probably take more, but a steady pour of inmates is from Smith County,” Nutt said. “I don’t want to turn Smith County down.”

According to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, as of June 23, Van Zandt County has a jail capacity of 192, and was housing 156 prisoners on that date. Henderson County had 322 inmates, and was only 66.23-percent full. Henderson County had 40 contract prisoners, mostly from Smith County.

In 2010, a new locking system was installed at the Van Zandt County Jail. The Sheriff at the time, Pat Burnett, had worked with the Commission on Jail Standards to install a system that was expected to enhance security at the facility.

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