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Texas Jailers Left Mentally Ill Inmate Alone For Weeks

Courtesy: http://www.tcjs.state.tx.us/

HOUSTON — A grand jury has indicted two Harris County sergeants who are accused of leaving a mentally ill inmate unattended in his cell for weeks.

The Houston Chronicle reports Ricky D. Pickens-Wilson and John Figaroa were charged Tuesday and face up to 10 years in prison on allegations they left Terry Goodwin unattended in his jail cell. They are also charged with tampering with a governmental record for signing off on paperwork stating that Goodwin was in good condition.

A sheriff's office compliance team says Goodwin was found in his cell with insect-infested food containers, a feces-clogged toilet and ropes from his shredded jail uniform hanging from the ceiling. A whistleblower had tipped the team to the situation last fall. Investigators were not able to determine exactly how long Goodwin had been in the cell.

Texas Commission on Jail Standards executive director Brandon Wood said they check the state’s county jails every year. “We had not seen anything remotely like that at annual inspections, which are unannounced,” Wood said.

But Julian Ramirez, Chief of the Civil Rights Division of the Harris County District Attorney's Office, claims no searches of Goodwin’s cell were made by jail staff. The grand jury saw evidence indicating that both Figaroa and Picken-Wilson had signed off on cellblock checks despite skipping Goodwin’s cell. “The investigation indicated that Mr. Goodwin was living in some unsanitary conditions which were unsafe.”

One of the justifications the jail employees gave was that Goodwin was a “combative inmate,” Ramirez said. Ramirez said the investigation examined whether other laws had been broken, but were unable to find evidence that jail staff had maliciously sought to deprive Goodwin of his civil rights.

Both sergeants have posted $5,000 bond. The sheriff’s office said in a statement that the both have been relieved of their duties. Goodwin was declared incompetent to stand trial and spent time at a mental hospital before returning to court and pleading guilty to assaulting a detention officer. He is currently serving a three-year sentence in a Dallas-area prison. 

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