A 66-year-old Houston man died Saturday after an apparent medical emergency at the Harris County Jail, where he had been held for more than two years on aggravated sexual assault charges.
Alfred Rios is the 13th person to die in the jail’s custody this year. Sheriff’s officials said an autopsy will be conducted to determine a cause of death.
Authorities said Rios was transported to a hospital Saturday afternoon after suffering a health issue in the jail’s medical ward. Rios did not have any “obvious physical injuries” prior to his death, sheriff’s officials said. They have not released any additional information about the circumstances of his death.
In recent months, state regulators and local advocates have criticized the Harris County Sheriff’s Office for its treatment of incarcerated people with medical conditions. However, it’s not immediately clear if jail staff violated any policies or whether operational issues contributed to Rios’ death. The sheriff’s office Internal Affairs Division is investigating to determine whether policies and procedures were followed, per department protocol.
The Texas Rangers will review Rios’ death, as required by state law following deaths in county jails.
Sheriff’s officials added that Rios’ death has been reported to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, which has found the Harris County Jail non-compliant with Texas safety standards for about a year. State regulators issued their latest notice of non-compliance in late August after finding staffing shortages and continuing failures to check on incarcerated people within required time windows.
Twenty-seven people died in jail custody last year and 21 died in 2021. At least 52 lawsuits related to jail conditions have been filed in local and federal courts in the past decade, according to a Houston Landing review of such cases.
Details of the two criminal charges against Rios were not immediately available. The Harris County District Clerk does not publish case documents when the criminal charges involve sexual abuse. Rios’ case file appears to show issues related to his competency to stand trial, though details of those matters were not immediately clear.