Lapses in discipline and supervision may explain how death row inmate Charles Thompson walked out of Houston’s Harris County Jail this month with relative ease, reports the Houston Chronicle. A Harris County jailer speaking anonymously, and a union lawyer, described an atmosphere at the jail in which detention officers routinely leave their posts before the end of their shifts – a factor Thompson may have capitalized on during his brazen escape. The jailer said some jailers play video games and nap while on duty. The jailer also contends that many routinely leave their posts unmanned well before their shifts are up.
Harris County’s four jails are manned by deputies who are fully certified peace officers and unlicensed detention officers, the jailer said. Detention officers serve as rovers or as pod and day-room watchers. Sergeants report for work 30 minutes before the detention officers they oversee and leave 30 minutes sooner. The veteran jailer said some rovers leave shortly after their bosses. The jailer suggested that such a lack of supervision, as well as a shortage of deputies around a shift change, may have contributed to the conditions that allowed Thompson to escape. The anonymous jailer said rovers frequently must be reminded to lock the visitor’s booth doors after escorting inmates to and from the rooms.