N. Texas Jail Closed, 60 Inmates Moved Out

Three weeks after an FBI raid, a North Texas jail has been closed and its nearly 60 inmates transferred as authorities investigate what they call dangerous conditions for jailers and those behind bars, reports CBS station KTVT-TV in Dallas.

Montague County Sheriff Paul Cunningham moved the inmates to the nearby Wise County Jail on Thursday morning a few hours after he was sworn in as the new sheriff just after midnight.

Jack McGaughey, district attorney for Montague, Clay and Archer counties, declined to say what prompted the investigation, also being conducted by the Texas Rangers. But he said authorities found contraband in the Montague County Jail.

He also said some surveillance cameras’ cords had been disconnected; recliners were in cells; some bathrooms and cells could be locked from the inside; and inmates had made partitions out of paper towels to block jailers’ view inside their cells. One alarming discovery was a type of rack made of nails, he said.  “You take that off the wall, it becomes a mace-type weapon,” Cunningham said.

“This action was taken because there was a concern for the safety of the prisoners and the jail personnel,” McGaughey said Friday.

Five inmates were removed and transferred to the Wise County Jail the day of the FBI raid earlier this month based on the investigation, McGaughey said. No one has been arrested yet, but McGaughey plans to present evidence to a grand jury and said “a number of people” — inmates as well as jailers — could be indicted.

Cunningham removed nearly half the jail’s staff Friday.  Some left voluntarily; others were forced out.

A drug-sniffing dog searched the jail Friday and alerted its handler to the presence of drugs.  Officials would not say exactly what the dog found.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office also is working with the FBI and may bring federal charges in the case, McGaughey said.

The FBI in Dallas did not immediately return calls seeking comment Friday.

Cunningham said whatever the source of the problems in the jail, “the ultimate responsibility for these type of things rests on our shoulders as administrators.”

He said he hopes the jail will open again in two months, with repairs made and inmates back under a new set of rules.

The jail in Montague County, about 65 miles northwest of Fort Worth, has had other problems through the years.

In early 2002, four inmates broke out of the Montague County Jail after overpowering a guard with a homemade knife. The two convicted killers and two murder suspects drove off in the guard’s sport utility vehicle but were caught 10 days later at an Ardmore, Okla., convenience store.

The Montague County Jail had been “decertified,” or put on warning, about three months before the escape for falling short of the guard-to-inmate ratio. After the breakout the Texas Commission on Jail Standards made a surprise visit and found the jail still out of compliance.

CBS 11’s calls to former Sheriff Bill Keating Friday were not returned.

Jailers have found contraband at several Texas state prisons in recent months, including the prison that houses death row.
source: http://wbztv.com/national/texas.jail.montague.2.899287.html


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