New Sheriff Tackles Jail Issues

Potter County Sheriff Brian Thomas
Potter County Sheriff Brian Thomas

Newly-elected Potter County Sheriff Brian Thomas is entering a new world.

"When I first came on, I had never been in this jail. This jail was built after I had left. So the only thing I ever heard was how bad this jail was," Thomas said, as he gave us an inside look at the jail.

The criticism comes after one inmate escaped from the jail last year and the county's former sheriff, Mike Shumate, was convicted on bribery charges.

"January 1st started a new day, and a new year, and a new era. Anything that happened in the past is over and done with," Thomas said.

Currently, Thomas is working to fix overcrowding at the jail. He hinted at the possibility of adding to the jail itself or building a brand new one.

"We're still growing, we're not shrinking," he said. "So it's something long-term we will have to look at down the road, I'm sure."

The detention center has a maximum capacity of 603 inmates. Currently, the jail houses 463 inmates. For now, Thomas plans use empty pods, that were originally designated for male inmates, and open them up to female inmates. This is a growing sector of the jail's population.

Another of Sheriff Thomas' goals is to bridge the gap between his downtown sheriff's office and the East Amarillo Detention Center.

"I hate that we are in two separate buildings because I want them to know that they are important to our organization."

Still, Thomas says any major changes to the jail itself will be made with your pocketbooks in mind. He says he does not plan to use extra taxpayer money, unless absolutely necessary.