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Court Halts Discovery Channel Project in Dallas County Jail

By BJ Austin

Dallas, TX – Dallas County Commissioners went to court to stop the Discovery Channel from filming a documentary on the inner workings of the County Jail as crews were beginning to unload equipment yesterday to start the 30-day project. County Commissioners say Sheriff Lupe Valdez did NOT clear the project with them FIRST.

County Commissioner Mike Cantrell says there are liability concerns.

Cantrell: Anybody that comes on our property and is injured and they sue Dallas County, we're self insured. So the taxpayers are the ones that have to pick up the tab on that.

In addition, Cantrell says the jail has failed its annual Jail Standards inspection for the past five years, and is involved in federal and state lawsuits over conditions in the jail. He says allowing Discovery cameras inside COULD force the Sheriff to give parties to the lawsuits such access.

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins says the Discovery Project is the Sheriff's call, not Commissioners. Judge Carlos Cortez says there is no Texas statute authorizing the Sheriff to enter into such a contract.

A hearing on the issue is set for July 16th.