New Jail Protocols Implemented To
Improve Inmate Safety
An internal Harris County Sheriff’s Office
investigation into the Feb. 13 death of a jail inmate has determined that a
deputy assigned to medical security failed to conduct required face-to-face
checks on the inmate in a timely manner.
The deputy’s employment has been terminated and the case has been referred to
the Harris County District Attorney’s Office for review.
Vincent Dwayne Young, 32, was found hanging from a bedsheet in his private cell
in the jail’s Health Services section.
The internal investigation into Young’s death concluded that the deputy
responsible for verifying his welfare exceeded the state-mandated maximum time
between observational rounds
State law requires detention officers to personally observe inmates housed in
single-person cells every 30 minutes. Harris County Sheriff’s Office policy
requires that those observations be made every 25 minutes, a higher standard.
Immediately after discovering the deputy’s failure to properly conduct
observation rounds, the Sheriff’s Office reported this finding to the Texas
Commission on Jail Standards.
In addition, the Sheriff’s Office implemented a number of initiatives to
provide better accountability and oversight. The new measures, which are now in
effect, include the following:
Watch commanders are now required to conduct weekly, random audits that
compare detention officers’ written inmate observational rounds records with
video footage to verify accuracy.
Supervisors must verify that detention officers conducting their rounds are also
obtaining firsthand evaluation of the inmates’ attitudes and temperament, as
well as observing the physical, mental, and emotional condition of each inmate
to detect signs of distress or need for medication, psychological or other
Supervisors are meeting with detention officers to reiterate the importance
of properly conducting inmate welfare rounds.
For 30 days, Compliance and Inspections staff will make daily site visits to
the Health Services row. Thereafter, compliance and inspection will conduct
random audits of staff performing their observational rounds.
The Sheriff’s Office is seeking funding to install additional video
surveillance cameras in those health services cells, which typically house
inmates requiring close observation.
The Sheriff’s Office is exploring technology applications that may assist in
ensuring observational rounds are conducted in compliance with policy.
The Texas Rangers are conducting an additional independent investigation into
Young’s death at the invitation of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
"The Harris County Sheriff's Office is committed to ensuring the safety of
all residents, including those housed at the county jail," said Sheriff Ed
Gonzalez. "Our sincere condolences are extended to Mr. Young's