Criminal Justice

Detention officer arrested, accused of smuggling marijuana into the Harris County Jail

Authorities say 24-year-old Robert Robertson, who had been working with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office for about six years, allegedly passed along marijuana to people in the jail. He was arrested Tuesday morning.

Harris County Jail
Lucio Vasquez / Houston Public Media
Harris County Jail in downtown Houston. Taken on Dec. 8, 2022.

A detention officer has been arrested and charged for allegedly smuggling drugs into the Harris County Jail — the second arrest in an ongoing investigation looking into an influx of narcotics inside the facility.

Authorities say 24-year-old Robert Robertson, who had been working with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office for about six years, allegedly passed along marijuana to people in the jail. Robertson was arrested Tuesday morning when he reported for duty at the jail and charged with engaging in organized criminal activity.

According to Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, Robertson has since been relieved of duty and is currently being held at the jail. During a press conference on Wednesday, Gonzalez said investigators believe Robertson may have smuggled other narcotics into the facility — a belief that’ll require further testing, Gonzalez added.

“No one, especially our own teammates, will be given leniency when it comes to actions that endanger the lives of those in our jail,” Gonzalez said.

So far this year, at least 19 people have died while in custody at the jail. As of now, autopsies for a number of this year's in-custody deaths are still pending, so the official cause of death for a majority of the people who've died in the Harris County Jail has yet to be determined.

Over the course of 2022, at least four people died due to drug-related causes while in custody. In total, at least 27 people died while in custody last year — the highest number in nearly two decades, according to county records and data from the Texas Justice Initiative.

This week’s arrest comes about a week after Gonzalez announced the arrest of 77-year-old defense attorney Ronald Lewis, who’s accused of delivering drug-laced papers to incarcerated people during multiple in-person visits at the jail. During Wednesday’s press conference, Gonzalez emphasized that the two arrests were part of a multi-month investigation that may result in more charges being filed.

“These arrests should serve as a strong warning to those who conspire to sell drugs in our jail,” Gonzalez said. “It stops now, or you should prepare to meet your customers in person soon wearing a matching orange jumpsuit.”