“Animal House” Jail Taken Off Double-Secret Probation

Inmates allowed to return to troubled North Texas jail

A troubled county jail where some of the cells didn't lock and some of the inmates had sex with female prison guards reopened this week following a $1 million refurbishment.

Inspectors from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards approved the reopening following an examination Friday, permitting 63 inmates to begin moving back into the facility on Monday.

"Everything went real well, and all was passed," Montague County Sheriff Paul Cunningham told the Wichita Falls Times Record News.

Cunningham closed the jail Jan. 1, just after taking the oath of office at midnight.

According to authorities, inmates had brought in recliners, openly took drugs and chatted on cell phones supplied by friends or guards. They also disabled some of the surveillance cameras and made weapons out of nails. The doors to two groups of cells didn't lock.

The $1 million refurbishment did not include the cost of housing inmates at the Wise County Jail, officials said.

Other repair work is evident. Walls were repainted to cover graffiti, and clear detention windows have replaced those covered with cardboard or scratched. Workers also replaced surveillance cameras and doors, and cleaned up cells once filled with loose chairs, electronics and trash.

A Texas grand jury last month returned a 106-count indictment against the former sheriff and 16 others. The indictment charged Bill Keating, sheriff from 2004 until December, with official oppression and having sex with female inmates.

The others indicted include nine guards -- seven women and two men -- who were charged with various offenses involving sex or drugs and other contraband. Four inmates also were charged.

Keating, 62, faces up to 10 years in federal prison in a separate case after pleading guilty in January to charges he coerced a woman into having sex with him by threatening to jail her on drug charges.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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