The Texas Department of Criminal Juastice has transfered a large percentage of inmates with COVID-19 to two prisons in Brazoria County.
Although the transfer of the inmates is routine, it still caught local officials by surprise.
Brazoria County Judge Matt Sebesta sent a strongly worded letter to Governor Abbott on Friday, April 17, chastising TDCJ for failing to notify his office of the transfers.
"TDCJ’s actions have placed a disproportionate impact on Brazoria County citizens and their resources," Sebesta wrote in a statement to the media.
The decisiont to transfer a large portion of the agency's 358 inmates with COVID-19 to two of the six prisons in Brazoria County is standard practice, according to Jeremy Desel, TDCJ's dirctor of communicaitons.
"We provide medical treatment for inmates at either Hospital Galveston or the Young unit in Dickinson and we need to get offenders as close as possible to those hospitals," Desel said.
Although TDCJ does utilize medical facilities near prisons in case of immediate medical emergencies, the agency ties to utilize the Galveston hospital as much as possible.
"It's the only fully accredited hospital within a prison system in the country," Desel added.
Because many of the medical facilites in Texas lack the security to deal with a large number of sick or injured inmates the majority of TDCJ's inmates are treated in Galveston.
"Having an inmate and correction officers in a medical facility is a burden and we try to prevent faciltiies from having to carry that burden," Desel said.
He added that, aside from the two medical units, there aren't any prisons in Galveston County.
TDCJ's decision not to notify Sebesta's office about the transfers is also standard procedure, according to Desel.
"We have more than 150,000 inmats in custody at any given time," Desel said. "We don't usually notify local officials about transfers."
In the wake of Sebesta's criticisms TDCJ has changed the way it is reporting COVID-19 cases.
"The numbers on the website now reflect the current locations of pending, negative and positive cases among offenders," Desel said.
TDCJ is also publishing deaths and recoveries.