Scathing report Into problems at Harris County Probation Departm - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

Scathing report Into problems at Harris County Probation Department

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In a bizarre twist last summer top brass at the Harris County Probation Department became the ones on trial for botching numerous drug tests causing this man and possibly others to be wrongly jailed.

"We know that there's at least 32 cases that they recently identified and that's just scratching the surface," said defense attorney Lisa Andrews.

After court testimony revealed the director and his top lieutenants knew urine samples were riddled with problems, they all resigned.

Enter Helen Harberts who spent about 5 months as the probation department's interim director.

"Judges may not be accustomed to someone who is as direct as I am," said Harberts. "But everyone needs to know what's going on so we can solve the problem."

In a January report titled the state of the Harris County Probation Department, Harberts holds nothing back.

"There was a tremendous concern in training," Harberts said.

Harberts points out that a branch director had no idea urine samples were considered evidence.

"That it came from a branch director was disappointing but I learned that was a systemic problem," said Harberts.

Before her arrival Harberts says the probation department's drug testing didn't cover some synthetic drugs like bath salts.

"Theoretically someone could be on bath salts and it wouldn't show up on a test," we asked Harberts who replied," Oh absolutely."

What does she think about that?

"I think it's really scary," Harberts said.

Harberts said the problems with the department's urine samples have been corrected and they are once again being used as evidence in court.

"Every legal flaw I could find, every legal procedure flaw I could find has been cured," Harberts said. "Now it's an issue of monitoring for human error."

When it comes to the state of the probation department's facilities, Harbert's report states, "In a word horrible, in two words horribly inadequate."

"In some cases they are decrepit, run down and filthy," Harberts said. "In some cases I believe they are unsafe."

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