After 13 months on the job, Branden Paez was fired in September 2013 for delivering tobacco, Cool Ranch Doritos, candy and other items to an inmate last summer and letting the inmate use his mobile phone to communicate with a friend outside the jail, authorities say. Paez accepted $25 in cash from the friend, according to court records.
Paez was arrested Tuesday on the felony charge of bringing contraband into a correctional facility. Bail was set at $5,000.
Tobacco is banned from Harris County Jail. Inmates are allowed to make collect calls on wall phones and can purchase snacks and other items from the jail commissary, using money deposited into their account by relatives, friends or acquaintances. Delivery of food and other items to inmates from outside the jail is against regulations.
The HCSO employs about 1,300 full-time and part-time detention officers, who are trained civilians.
"Here's what I want the public to understand," Sheriff Adrian Garcia said. "One, 99 percent of our jail staffers do a great job in difficult circumstances, guarding almost 9,000 inmates in the nation's third largest jail. Two, we have zero tolerance for law enforcement employees who decide to break the law instead of enforce it."
The HCSO Office of Internal Affairs continues to search for any evidence of delivery of jail contraband or other illegal conduct by staff.
Jail employees are no longer allowed to bring personal phones into the jail without special permission. They are prevented from bringing in heavy bags such as backpacks. As usual, employees are subject to random security searches.