On Thursday, a grand jury indicted a former jailer at the Harris County Jail who apparently hit an inmate in the chest so hard that the inmate fell to the ground.
According to the Harris County District Attorney's Office, Carrington Phillips was escorting the inmate in the jail last October when an argument broke out between them. Even though the inmate was handcuffed and couldn't fight back, Phillips punched the wind out of him. When the inmate fell down, he hit his head on either the floor or a door jam and began bleeding “profusely.”
The incident was caught on tape. Phillips, if convicted, will face up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine for the misdemeanor assault.
“Jailers must be held to a high standard in safeguarding the rights of inmates in their custody,” said Civil Rights Division Chief Julian Ramirez in a statement. “When we have sufficient evidence that they have violated this public trust, we will pursue criminal charges.”
And as the Houston Chronicle reported in a six-part series on jail conditions, yes, this happens a lot. There was the mentally ill 72-year-old man who died after a guard who had 11 previous use-of-force incidents on his record punched him in the face, causing him to fall back, hit his head and bleed to death. There was the man who, cursing guards for not bringing him a blanket, ended up needing nine stitches after a guard threw him against a metal bunk, gashing his head. And it happens at the Houston Police Department jail, too. As we reported in December, a former HPD jailer pleaded guilty to punching a mentally ill inmate in the face several times, then lying to his colleagues about what happened.
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That former jailer is still on probation and reports every weekend to the “Sheriff's Work Program,” where, as we reported last December, he will do manual labor “predominantly outside in the elements...YOU WILL GET DIRTY AND POSSIBLY WET,” the instructions say.