The Harris County Jail, recently praised for its care of mentally ill inmates, has been re-accredited for medical treatment by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, according to a release from the county. Inspectors found the downtown jail to be in compliance with 31 national standards for inmate healthcare.
The downtown jail houses a large number of mentally ill inmates as well as prisoners with medical issues including HIV/AIDS, infectious diseases and even pregnancy. The Mental Health and Medical Security Unit of the jail was given an award last year for the work of deputies securing care for inmates.
This is a positive turnaround for a jail that has been besieged with problems going back nearly ten years, including accusations of guards exchanging sex with inmates for favors, excessive force and other serious charges.
Just last month, Sheriff Adrian Garcia was called before a U.S. Department of Justice review panel to testify about problems in the jail system, particularly as related to sexually based offenses. A report in the Houston Chronicle found Harris County jails to have one of the worst rates of sexual assault in the nation.
Garcia defended the changes made in the jail over the past few years including the firing of a number of employees, but there is still good reason to be skeptical given their track record.
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Still, the improvements in health care in the downtown jail are encouraging.