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Local Lockup’s Microwaves, Commissary Items Prompt Jailer’s Complaint

By: Matt Howerton Email
By: Matt Howerton Email

WACO (September 16, 2012)-- A local sheriff's deputy is throwing up a red flag regarding safety and security issues within the McLennan County Jail.

Weeks ago, News 10 revealed that inmates living in dormitory cells have access to microwaves. According to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, it's all legal as long as a jailer is available to supervise inmates while they are using the microwaves.

But according to Ken Witt, a McLennan County Sheriff's Deputy who has worked in the jail for 14 years, supervising inmates who use the microwaves in the A and B wing of the jail is a difficult task.

"There are no cameras in that part of the jail, and it's impossible to just stand in front of 12 different tanks to watch them use the microwaves," Witt said.

"There's no way you can safely monitor them using the microwaves."

We asked the McLennan County Jail Supervisor, John Kolinek, if microwaves inside the jail could be used as weapons.

"I guess you could say that you could use them as a weapon," Kolinek said.

"But they can use their shoe, take it off, and hit someone or throw it."

Witt claims he's seen inmates use the microwaves in the past to hurt others in the jail.

"We had a problem where one inmate put oils and hygiene items in water, microwaved it, and threw it in the face of another inmate. It severely burned him, I mean, you can still see the scars on this inmate's face," Witt said.

But the microwaves aren't the only thing Witt has a problem with.

Some items on the jail's commissary list (items available for inmates to purchase inside the jail) have caught Witt's eye.

"There are some major safety problems we're selling with this commissary. For instance, we should be handing them a razor blade to let them shave, then turn around and take it back," Witt said.

"I mean they're allowed to buy disposable razors, you can pop the blade right out of that with no problem at all."

Witt went on to say that inmates constantly abuse their commissary privileges.

"We had one guy who went into another inmate's crate, started eating this inmate's food, and the inmate went and bit his ear off," Witt said.

In a previous interview, we asked Sheriff Larry Lynch if the McLennan County lockup was a hotel or a jail.

"We control their movements, we control their visits, and we control their activities everyday," Lynch said.

"They don't do what they want in jail...it's a jail."

After spending years on the inside, Witt disagrees.

"They get to watch the ball games, they gamble with their commissary, they pop popcorn, and they get to cook desserts," Witt said.

"Don't tell me it isn't a hotel. I mean we're going to wait on you, bring you what you want, and if we don't then we're going to get in trouble."

In the past three years, inmates going in and out of the McLennan County jail have spent a little over half a million dollars on commissary items.

Bell county's commissary list is only one page. It offers similar items, seems less excessive, and offers no razor blades.

"It feels like this administration's attitude about this is to give them what they want so they will be happy and won't sue us," Witt said.

Witt is the current President of the McLennan County Sheriff's Officer Association.

On September 13, he formally filed a complaint with the Texas Commission on Jail Standards regarding the safety and security of microwaves being used in the A and B wing of the jail. He also questioned the safety of certain commissary items.

"It's time someone finally knows about what goes on in the McLennan County Jail," Witt said.

"There needs to be a change, and we can't wait for someone in another administration to come along to do it. It needs to be done now."

The Texas Commission on Jail Standards will review Witt's complaint and will decide whether or not to investigate.

A transcript of Witt's complaints, along with TCJS rules, is attached to this article.


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