Two more Texas prisons started evacuations late Monday night to escape historic flooding in the Houston area brought by Hurricane Harvey, bringing the total evacuation count to five prisons and nearly 6,000 inmates.
As rain continued to pour Monday onto the already waterlogged metropolis, about 1,400 inmates at the Vance and Jester 3 prisons in the Houston suburb of Richmond began loading onto buses and shipping off to other prison units in South Texas, according to a Texas Department of Criminal Justice statement.
"Many of the streets in Houston have severe flooding right now, so this evacuation will be logistically challenging," said TDCJ spokesman Jason Clark.
The evacuation order comes after three other prisons in the area were cleared out over the weekend since Harvey made landfall near Corpus Christi on Friday night. The Terrell, Stringfellow and Ramsey prisons in Brazoria County sent about 4,500 inmates to East Texas prisons Saturday and early Sunday morning. The transfer was completed without significant issue, Clark said.
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All five prisons, which house only men, are located near the Brazos River, and the department decided to evacuate as water levels rose near the units. The Terrell, Stringfellow and Ramsey prisons were all evacuated last May during another Houston flood.
During evacuations, inmates are taken to prison facilities that have available space, such as gyms, and sleep on mattresses brought in by the department, Clark said. Additional food and water are taken to the facilities accepting the evacuees.
On Saturday, Clark said there was "minimal damage" to prisons in the areas affected by the storm, and that many prisons were running on generator power. The department continues to monitor the storm out of an emergency command center in Huntsville.
Family members of inmates may contact the department's 24-hour hotline to get information about their relatives at 936-437-4927 or 844-476-1289.