The sheriff’s office is changing policies at the Galveston County Jail after two unloaded handguns were found hidden at a facility used for an inmate work program.
Sheriff Henry Trochesset said authorities are investigating the security lapse and the possibility that a deputy was responsible.
Deputies found the pistols on top of an 18-foot-tall painting shed at the facility last Tuesday after receiving a tip, he said. The guns were not in working condition.
The weapons came from the evidence room at the sheriff’s office, and were marked in the department’s internal records as having been destroyed on July 29, Trochesset said.
No other weapons were missing from the evidence room, and the integrity of the jail itself was not compromised, Trochesset said.
The two weapons found last week were confiscated in separate drug arrests. When those cases were disposed, the guns were sent to be destroyed by court order, Trochesset said.
Inmates, under the supervision of deputies, routinely destroyed unloaded weapons confiscated by the sheriff’s office, Trochesset said. The welding bench used to cut apart guns is about 15 feet away from the shed where the weapons were found.
The facility houses equipment and other machinery used by inmates in the jail’s continuing skills program. Inmates who pass a background and classification check can enroll in the program to practice skills such as woodworking, welding and painting.
Inmates in the program maintain the grounds at the county courthouse and justice center, wash county vehicles and perform maintenance work on equipment.
The skills program was shut down for several days after the guns were found in the building just outside the jail, and several inmates will no longer be allowed to participate, Trochesset said.
However, Trochesset said he could not place blame on the inmates.
“If the deputy had been doing their job, we would not be here today,” he said.
An investigation could result in the termination of any deputy involved and possible criminal charges, Trochesset said.
A new policy will prevent inmates from dismantling confiscated weapons, and the sheriff’s office will begin video recording the destruction of any guns, he said.
The crews of inmates who maintain the grounds on county property will now be strip-searched before returning to the continuing skills facility. All inmates are already searched before entering the jail itself.
Other policies will also be put in place, Trochesset said.