Concerns over contraband: Weapons, phones, drugs found on inmates in Harris County Jail
HOUSTON - A number of problems are plaguing the Harris County Jail. Even as the sheriff’s office works to make the facility safer there seems to be growing concern for what’s being found on inmates in the jail.
Inmates at the Harris County Jail are being caught with cell phones, drugs, even weapons. Jail workers who fear for their safety say inmates getting caught with contraband isn’t new but when you add that with the recent security issues they say not cracking down on contraband could lead to more people getting hurt or worse.
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One jail worker points to a social media page full of videos of Kendrick Johnson inside the Harris County Jail. Johnson has been convicted of the 2018 murder of Lamar High School student Delindsey Mack and just last month Johnson was sentenced to life in prison. So how did Johnson record and post to Instagram, not one but several videos of himself locked up in the Harris County Jail where inmates are not allowed to have cell phones?
"If there’s not enough people, stuff is going to slip in, and we would like to keep it all out, but we don’t have enough people to do the cell searches and find out what they’ve got coming in," says Harris County Deputies’ Organization General Counsel Dave Batton.
"If you’re getting cell phones in it makes me wonder what else is also getting in?" asks Victims’ Rights Advocate Andy Kahan, but we actually don’t have to wonder.
There are pictures in the Harris County Deputies’ Organization lawsuit regarding the jail and according to the suit the photos were taken inside the Harris County Jail after inmates were found in possession of the drugs and weapons that were photographed.
"The whole jail which we noted in our lawsuit smells like a drug factory in there," says Batton.
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"For anybody working in a jail right now you’re going to have to be looking behind your shoulder, in front of you 24/7," adds Kahan.
Just on Tuesday, Louis Ybarbo was charged with having a deadly weapon in the Harris County Jail. You may remember Ybarbo was featured on FOX 26’s Breaking Bond for being out on bond when he was accused of beating his girlfriend with a gun and shooting and killing an 18-year-old.
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Not only did Johnson draw thousands of views for his jailhouse videos, but he also picked up a charge for the phone and according to court records this summer he too was found with a "shank" in the Harris County Jail.
"Some of them will stop at nothing to get what they need, to gain power or control within the jail or seek a means to get out," says Batton.
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These contraband concerns come after a veteran deputy was beaten and sexually assaulted last week, two detention officers were assaulted this week and teenage special needs inmate Fred Harris was murdered by another inmate in October 2021.
"Between the staff getting attacked, between weapons being found amongst inmates and now inmates posting pictures of themselves with cell phones on Instagram yeah Houston we’ve got a major problem," says Kahan.
So what’s the solution? Batton says being fully staffed will virtually eliminate all the issues and Kahan says he would like to see an immediate and major sweep of the jail to identify and get rid of everything that’s been smuggled in.
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The HCSO says, "We are dedicated to tackling the issue of contraband. Our Contraband Abatement Team, which pairs new detention officers with experienced members of our Compliance Unit and Detention Command Containment Team, is part of our ongoing efforts to eliminate contraband from the Harris County Jail."