The Fix Is In

UTMB is under fire in Dallas for its jail health care. So why is Houston ready to install it here?

However, a series of e-mails shows that the matter was known and discussed.

An April 25 e-mail from the health department's Martha Engel to both department director Stephen Williams and Marks said Councilmember Carol Galloway's chief of staff had asked her about the jail program and the Dallas story.

"I told him I was aware of those articles and that problems sometimes arose in contracting," Engel wrote.

Brian Stauffer
Brian Stauffer

Ten days later, Marks wrote Engel back, saying "the "Houston Press has called about this -- obviously a setup since they want to know about 'privatization.' " Later that day Marks told the Press she was ignorant of Dallas County events.

"The issues I've seen in the paper surrounding jail health have to do with the privately contracted jails. I don't think it's UTMB," she said on May 5.

The next day, after she'd had a chance to "check it out," Marks told the reporter: "I appreciate the lead because I wasn't aware of it."

"So this wasn't something that had come up in the discussions?" the reporter asked.

"No."

Ass-covering aside, Marks said she does want to make sure Houston doesn't experience similar problems.

"I think this is a very different situation," Marks said of Dallas. "However, we obviously want to make sure that the issues that they encountered up there… don't occur here."

But she was obviously swayed by UTMB's argument.

"I think they learned some lessons there that will be applicable here."

In just a few months, the 118,000 inmates who cycle through Houston jails each year may have a chance to find out just what lessons those were.

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