Tag Archives: Randall County jail

Well done, Sheriff Richardson

I just got word via social media that a great police officer and a courageous public servant is calling it a career in Randall County, Texas.

Sheriff Joel Richardson is retiring. A former Randall County district attorney, James Farren, has endorsed Chris Forbis to succeed him. I don’t know Forbis. I want to speak briefly about Richardson.

I wrote a blog more than 10 years about how Richardson stood up to take the heat when an inmate escaped from the county jail in south Amarillo. He said clearly it was no one’s fault but his own. Richardson didn’t toss any corrections officers under the proverbial bus. The inmate escaped from a “non-hardened” cell, crawled over the razor-wire fence, hitched a ride with a couple of fellows, who took him into Amarillo. The cops arrested the escapee later that evening.

The sheriff took the heat for the embarrassing incident. That’s what leaders do.

With that, I want to say it was my honor to know Sheriff Richardson during my years as a working journalist in the Texas Panhandle.

Here’s what I wrote in September 2009.

Taking the heat, like a man


Throw the book at cockfighting nimrods


I have no idea if pitting animals against each other in fights to the death is at epidemic levels in Amarillo, but whenever I see reports of it, I go into fits of serious anger.

Amarillo police officers over the weekend raided a barn in the southeast part of the city. A group of hooligans ran from the site; the cops rounded up about 20 of them and booked a dozen of them into the Randall County jail on a misdemeanor charge of being spectators at this hideous event.

The police rounded up the birds and took them to the city’s Animal Management and Welfare office. Who knows now what’ll happen to the birds? If they’re euthanized, I’m quite sure they’ll leave this world in a far gentler fashion than what the idiots who pitted them against each other had in mind.

As the police said in a statement, “There is some indication that participants were charged to watch the fights.”

So, idiots charge others to watch this activity and even bigger idiots actually pay to see it happen. I guess, too, that they place wagers on which bird will still be strutting at the end of the fight.

You know, we think we live in a clean community. Most of it is. However, we do have this seedy side of life that exists out there. I’ve never been na├»ve to believe we don’t have such activity happening right under our gaze.

Still, hearing about it makes my blood boil.


Remember all that Randall County jail fuss?

I was tooling around the south edge of Amarillo this afternoon, crossed the intersection of Hollywood Road and South Georgia Street and looked to the south and noticed the Randall County Jail complex.

Then it hit me: I remember the intense public debate many years ago as the county revealed plans to relocate its lockup from the Courthouse Square in Canyon to this location in a rural portion of the county. I say it was “intense,” because I recall the NIMBY faction — those who said “not in my backyard” — raising all kinds of heck about the location.

They didn’t want it anywhere near them. If not there, then where? It didn’t matter. Just not at that location.

That was back in 2000, when the jail opened its doors to inmates.

What came to my mind this afternoon was the absence of any of the nightmare scenarios predicted by those who wanted no part of the jail.

I recall one particular escape from the lockup not long after it opened. Some young inmate managed to conceal his activities from security officers, busted through the ceiling in his cell, climbed to the roof, jumped to the ground, then got over the fence and ran out. I can remember one aspect of the story, which is that he hitched a ride with a couple of men, actually told them he had escaped from the jail — but the men in the car thought he was joking. They returned later that evening to the jail area, noticed all the police cars and lights and reported to the cops where they had taken the escapee.

He was caught several hours later in a neighborhood in central Amarillo. Sheriff Joel Richardson took full responsibility for the guy’s escape and vowed to ensure it wouldn’t happen again. To my knowledge, he’s kept his word.

I guess the lesson of the county jail is not unlike a lot of similar lessons that people have to learn the hard way. It is that circumstances that you fear quite often don’t actually materialize those fears.

Thirteen years after it has opened, the jail remains relatively isolated. The neighbors in the subdivisions north of the site have gone about their lives. Indeed, they cannot even see the jail from the homes where they live.

I’m wondering now — just as I did then: Why all that fuss?