Jail Investigates Photo of Guard Sleeping While on Duty

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HARLINGEN – A photo of a guard keeping watch over an inmate at a local hospital has patients asking questions and the guard without a job.

A viewer captured a picture where it appears showing the guard sleeping with an inmate in the background at Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen.  

The incident was brought to the attention of Willacy County state jail officials.

Michael Sizemore, a state jail warden, confirmed their correctional officer was keeping watch over an inmate the night of Aug. 1. The Willacy County State Jail Facility has as many as 1069 inmates ranging from low to medium security.

CoreCivic, the private company which runs the prison, launched an investigation into the incident. In the following statement, CoreCivic Manager of Public Affairs Amanda Gilchrist confirmed it was their officer:

“We can confirm that the photograph is of a CoreCivic/Willacy County State Jail correctional officer and this is certainly a behavior we do not condone. Due to the serious nature of his behavior and numerous policy violations, the employee has been terminated from his position with the company effective immediately.”

We showed the photo to Roseann Cantu. She was visiting her mother in the hospital on Tuesday.

”He shouldn’t be asleep, I’m shocked right now, seeing that, pretty shocked,” she said. “I’d be scared and let them know right away he’s asleep on the job. I wouldn’t want to be in the same floor that’s for sure.”

Some unanswered questions remain about what happened. The state jail facility is not releasing the name of the guard, so we are unable to tell his side of the story.

We asked CoreCivic whether surveillance footage was reviewed.

“The warden's decision was based on the photo,” Gilchrist said.

We also asked if another guard was supposed to be there as well.

“For security reasons, we can't discuss the specific policies and/or practices. Like I mentioned yesterday, the former employee featured in the photo was not adhering to policies,” Gilchrist said.

A spokesperson of the hospital said they had no idea about the incident but wished the person who took the photo had reached out to a nurse immediately.


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