HOUSTON — Harris County Detention Officer J. Valdiviez was ambushed and severely beaten by an inmate while working an understaffed shift on the Harris County Jail “double lockdown” floor—a floor for housing high-risk, violent criminals. 

Christian Dillard, the inmate in question, was in prison on charges of capital murder. This marks the fourth time he has assaulted detention officers. This instance was particularly concerning as Valdiviez reportedly suffered cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated after flatlining.  

Notably, Harris County Jail has continued to be non-compliant with Texas Commission on Jail Standards inspections leading to poor and unsafe conditions for both inmates and officers.

Harris County suffered 25 inmate deaths last year and four so far in 2023.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez has blamed issues with the Harris County Jail on understaffing driven by poor pay. In March, Gonzalez told county commissioners that although there were more than 150 open positions, he “could not fill them because there just aren’t enough persons willing to do this work for the pay we offer.”

Likewise, Valdiviez pointed out that the attack happened while he was working an understaffed shift. “Normally, it should be a three-man pod, but under the circumstances of short staffing, there was a two-man pod that day.”

He continued, “If we would have had better control of how we staff our personnel, or how we staff every floor in general, I’m pretty sure the situation could have been avoided.”

Harris County has faced accusations of underfunding law enforcement for the past couple of years. Even though the budget for county law enforcement increased, Harris County Commissioner Tom Ramsey pointed out it is still a mere “18 percent” of what was requested.

Micah Rice

A summer writing fellow for Texas Scorecard, Micah has an interest in spreading the truth about Texas politics.