Water issues at local prisons have relatives concerned

No clear answer to Big Country prisons' water woes

JONES COUNTY, Texas - Big Country prisons have a water problem and several family members of inmates contacted KTXS with concerns that their loved ones' health is at risk.

Inmates at the Robertson and Middleton units told relatives the water problems started earlier this week.

"Health issues is the biggest thing," said the mother of an inmate who wished to not be identified. "You know you can't take a bath, you can't get a decent drink of water, you can't wash up, you can't use the bathroom properly. What do they do?"

Jason Clark, the director of public information for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, confirmed water pressure has been low since Wednesday.

Clark said water use is being restricted -- showers and laundry are limited, and water to some buildings is being shut off intermittently.

"When the water is off to those buildings, obviously the persons cannot flush the toilet at that point, but once it comes back on they have the ability to do that," Clark said. "We're just ensuring we restrict water so we can keep that water pressure up."

The TDCJ and the city of Abilene are working on the problem. Both say the issue is the other's responsibility. 

"It does not appear at this time that it's [the problem's] on our property, so they continue to investigate that," Clark said.

"We suspect there is an issue on their side of the meter," Rodney Taylor, interim director of water utilities, said. "We really don't have access on that side of the meter to help them resolve the issue."

Family members said no matter what they're in prison for, inmates deserve better.

"They have constitutional rights," the inmate's mother said. "They are human beings, they are someone's loved one regardless of what the rest of the public thinks."

"They are loved by their loved ones."

The spokesman for the TDCJ said he doesn't know how long the problem will last.

He said they are prepared to bring in outside water and portable toilets if it comes to that.

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