“It’s a dire situation” for workers, said Lance Lowry, who heads the Texas Correctional Employees union in Huntsville. “Several hundred officers in the Beaumont area are unable to get in and staffing is critical at those units.” State officials sent in 90 corrections officers to fill the gap.
Hurricane Harvey dealt a beating to prison and jail facilities in southeast Texas, triggering evacuations, marooning staff and depriving prisoners of toilets and running water, the Houston Chronicle reports. Thousands of inmates remained in limbo Monday, including hundreds who fled rising floodwaters only to be taken to a facility a federal judge had deemed too dangerously hot for inmates with medical conditions. The crisis now centers on Beaumont, where flooding compromised the water supply at three federal and three state prisons. While city officials scrambled to get treatment facilities up and running, many correctional officers couldn’t cross the swollen Neches River to get to their jobs. “It’s a dire situation,” said Lance Lowry, who heads the Texas Correctional Employees union in Huntsville. “Several hundred officers in the Beaumont area are unable to get in and staffing is critical at those units.”
Lowry said staff-to-inmate ratios don’t allow for wiggle room in an emergency. A guard said in one online forum that those who made it in to work have been spread very thin. Jason Clark, spokesman for Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said the state shipped in more than 90 officers to fill the gap, providing enough personnel to run the facilities safely. Worried family members have fielded a range of complaints from relatives at the Beaumont prisons — including minimal access to drinking water, bare-bones meals and poor access to medicine. One inmate reported standing water up to his kneecaps, but Clark said he toured the three state facilities in Beaumont and, “there is no water near the units. I spoke with offenders and given the situation they were in good spirits.”