Harris County Sheriff Tommy Thomas and Democratic election challenger Adrian Garcia clashed Thursday over inmate deaths in the county jail, with the Republican incumbent saying many accused criminals arrive there with life-threatening illnesses.
A few hours before that initial showdown between Thomas and Garcia, the candidates for district attorney continued their series of forums on other segments of the county's criminal justice system.
The U.S. Justice Department is investigating problems at the jail, the full staffing of which requires overtime pay to deputies in Thomas' agency. The problems include the deaths of about 140 inmates since 2001.
"There shouldn't be any (deaths)," Thomas said during a debate videotaped for broadcast 8 tonight on KUHF (Channel 8). "But most of these individuals have recurring problems when they came to the jail.
Garcia said that because the Sheriff's Office keeps inmate medical records on paper rather than computer, jail physicians may not have immediate access to such records when ill people end up in the jail as repeat accused offenders.
"You should have those medical records immediately available and who knows how that delay could have played into some of these deaths," Garcia said.
In addition to the Friday broadcast, the episode of Red White and Blue: The Great Debate Series will be shown again 5 p.m. Sunday.