Dallas County Jailers May be Overworked and Under Stress

Dallas County Jailers May be Overworked and Under Stress
Jail cell door. | Image from Getty Images

Two former Dallas County jailers are speaking out about the poor conditions they claim to have witnessed during their tenure with the facility.

Emmanuel Lewis worked the detention center floor as a detention service officer for two years, including at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In his role, he saw to inmates’ needs, such as food and housing requests, as well as took occasional disciplinary action. He told The Dallas Express his biggest concerns were with the safety and well-being of staff and inmates. One major issue, Lewis said, was overcrowding.

Texas administrative code states that the ratio of inmates to peace officers should not exceed 48:1. However, Lewis said each pod was filled to capacity during the pandemic, creating a ratio of 64 inmates to each peace officer. If accurate, that ratio would violate the Texas code, and Lewis said it also made social distancing on the floor impossible.

The Dallas Express spoke with County Commissioner J. J. Koch, who said any staffing issues would have been filed with the state Commission on Jail Standards before that information reached the County Commissioners Court.

No reports of overcrowding have crossed the commissioners’ dockets, Koch added.

Lewis also said the social distancing problem was compounded by officers’ lack of necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Koch said that during the height of the pandemic, no requests ever came in from the jail for additional PPE. He added that the court was aware that stocks reached low levels, however, if stocks became critical or ran out the court was not informed.

When asked if these issues resulted in an increase in positive COVID-19 tests, Lewis replied he knew many jailers who tested positive for the virus while on duty in the jail, himself included. COVID-19 may even have caused one jailer’s death, he said.

Lewis quoted a Dallas Observer piece about officer Damon Finney, which stated the 50-year-old jailer had worked multiple 16-hour shifts leading up to a honeymoon he planned with his wife on July 27, 2021. The officer had underlying health conditions, including asthma, the piece reads.

Despite the risks, the 15-year veteran of the Dallas County jail saw the mandatory overtime as an opportunity to save money for his upcoming honeymoon and a down payment on a house.

Before leaving for their Las Vegas honeymoon, Finney’s wife noticed her husband was ill, according to the Dallas Observer story. Finney and his bride returned home on August 4, but Finney died from complications due to COVID-19 on August 14, the story reads.

Lewis ended up taking his own concerns over the jail’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic to court, suing Dallas County Sheriff Marian Brown to bring awareness to the issues he saw, but that case was dismissed and an appeal never got off the ground.

The stress Lewis experienced gave him a dermatological condition that caused his skin to lose color in some areas, he told The Dallas Express, adding that he had not experienced that condition before taking the job at the jail.

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1 Comment

  1. Anna Williams

    Sheriff Marian Brown should have been gone years ago. You never see her until it’s reelection time. The County deserve better because Sheriff Brown is about doing nothing and the Commissioner cover her ASSETS.

    The jail has been nothing since Lupe was duped into running against Greg Abbott! We knew how that would come out!


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