Hospital Guard Tab Rises over Concern with Forensic Patients

With firm on watch at Parkland, costs go up and inmates slip out

"We believe once an inmate is incarcerated, that inmate is under the care and security of the sheriff, and that is a job that cannot be delegated," he said.

Chief Birdwell said Greer is having problems hiring guards "just like we are."

Because inmates have to be supervised by a jailer, Greer has to find people and train them to be licensed jailers.

The work is not steady or predictable. Some weeks, employees may make good money if a high number of inmates are taken to Parkland. Other weeks, it may be slow, and they may not make any money.

"If they can be jailers, they could come down here [to the Sheriff's Department] and work full time," she said.

Dallas County officials have discussed the possibility of opening a secure floor or unit of Parkland specifically for inmates, but the hospital was opposed, Mr. Brown said. Building a separate jail hospital was deemed too expensive, he said. Hospital security has been an ongoing concern, particularly after two shootouts at Parkland's emergency room.

In the last incident, in 1992, a bank robbery suspect grabbed a deputy's gun and fired twice in the emergency room. No one was shot, but a deputy was hurt during a scuffle. The inmate was later recaptured.

Commissioner Maurine Dickey said she would prefer to expand and improve health facilities at the jail. She said the jail's infirmary is too small and in bad condition.

"We're spending a lot of money unnecessarily that could go to an infirmary," she said.

Dr. Ron Anderson, Parkland's president and chief executive officer, said it's difficult to staff a hospital jail ward. He said he prefers sending his medical staff to a jail clinic.

"The best way to do this is to not have them [inmates] here at all," he said.

Hospital escapes

April 12 - Ray Morales, 41, escaped from Parkland after a guard left to use the restroom. Mr. Morales faced arson and criminal mischief charges.

Feb. 10 - Christopher Kaisler, 35, escaped from Parkland after he asked for permission to use the restroom. A guard stood outside the restroom but never heard Mr. Kaisler open the door. Mr. Kaisler bolted for a staircase. The guard said he stopped chasing him because he was "going down the stairwell fast," a sheriff's report said. Mr. Kaisler was accused of felony car theft.

Dec. 21 - Gregory S. Jennings, 35, walked out of Parkland. He was not being guarded at the time. Mr. Jennings, who had two previous escape charges, was accused of assault.

Sept. 19 - Maulana Rusley, 32, walked out of Parkland. He was not being guarded at the time. Mr. Rusley faced criminal trespassing and theft charges.

May 9, 2005 - Elizabeth Craft, 22, walked out of Parkland after asking to use the restroom. The guard had unshackled her and then left to answer the phone. When the guard returned, she was gone. Ms. Craft faced felony theft charges.

Aug. 22, 2004 - Luis Ochoa, 32, ran down a hallway after returning from the restroom. He was caught at the elevators by a guard. He had been charged with theft.

Dec. 22, 2003 - Curley J. Henderson, 53, walked out of Parkland after being discharged by hospital staff. He did not have a guard watching him. He faced a misdemeanor criminal trespassing charge and a felony parole violation charge.

Oct. 22, 2003 - Felicia Etheridge, 18, was given permission to go to the McDonald's restaurant inside Parkland and never returned. She faced a drug possession charge.

Copyright (c) 2006, The Dallas Morning News Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.