The Austin Chronicle asked TJP’s Executive Director what could prevent further tragedies like the death of Sandra Bland. ‘We need there to be more training of jailers to have the knowledge and temperament to take their role as caretaker very seriously – because the emphasis on security and regimented rules leads to jailers who do not pay attention to the person who may be sick or angry or mentally ill,” says Diana Claitor. “Jailers need to look after the people in their care as if each was a relative instead of viewing them as the enemy. And we need the jail and jailers to be thoroughly investigated each and every time a person dies of suicide or any death inside the jail itself …. Finally, we need independent investigations by someone other than the Texas Rangers, who are not transparent in the least and are extremely connected to the local law enforcement.”
- Investigate Sandra’s death!
- A son lost to a Texas city jail
- Texas could do this: No more bail for traffic tickets!
- County Jail Survey
- A New Look at Jails and Prisons
- Marshall Project’s video: Jail is not Prison!
- The risk for diabetics in county jails
- El Paso: Save $$, reduce number of inmates
- Mom glad to see Harris Co improve
- Widespread abuse of pregnant inmates
Who We Are and What We DoThe Texas Jail Project seeks to improve the conditions for approximately 65,000 people—mothers, fathers, brothers, sons, sisters, and daughters—who are incarcerated in Texas county jails. Our issue areas include:
Look into the eyes of Ron Converse, to understand the cost of no regulations of city jails. His son, a 26-year-old welder from Wisconsin named Chad Silvis, killed himself in the Kemah City Jail after being arrested for public intoxication.
City jailers in Texas don’t have to meet the minimum standards that county jails do. State officials aren’t even sure how many city jails are operating across Texas, but estimate there are at least 350. Diana Claitor, director of the Texas Jail Project, describes this death as an unnecessary tragedy for families. She said, “People have blinders on and don’t seem to be willing to work on this issue of suicides in jails.”
Read St. John Barned-Smith’s story to find out how such tragedies can be prevented.
The numbers of people dying in county jails are adding up in 2014. On October 6th, 37-year-old Iretha Lilly died hours after being tased by a McLennan County deputy; because of many reports to us of jailers failing to respond to a person in a medical crisis, we are asking how long was Ms. Lilly in heart failure before she was taken to the ER? In September saw the tragic death of 18-year-old Victoria Gray in the Brazoria County Jail, after that jail failed to protect her despite knowing of her history. Both of them were pretrial—not yet convicted. (Our list is only of deaths within county jails, not police custody.) Earlier this year, when Courtney Ruth Elmore died in the Brown County Jail, was staff properly trained to watch for respiratory failure?
When Brenda Martin recalls how her only child’s life came to an end at the age of 37, she knows there was not one isolated event that caused his early demise. But she’s convinced that although he didn’t die in custody, the 73 days he spent in Caldwell County jail directly contributed to his death.
Each month Texas county jails tally the number of pregnant inmates and report that to the Jail Commission. Some are only held there a few days, but others may be incarcerated for weeks and months and a number will deliver their babies in local hospitals while in custody.
Can you fill out this short survey on Texas county jails? Click on the title “County Jail Survey.” Your information won’t be shared without your permission.
Maria Ana shares about her son’s experience of being held pretrial in a Texas county jail for 3 years.
April, 2015, Gloria White emailed: “I have to say, Harris County is trying to improve this jail. Went to visit my son this week at 1200 Baker Street and was thrilled to see they had started installing phones to visit without screaming!! “They have added an Inmate Care form to their website…which I have used successfully, for a
Do you know that everyday Texans are losing jobs and being disconnected from their families while waiting for their cases to be processed? They are the “innocent until proven guilty” and their numbers are astounding: 60% of the people in your average Texas county jail haven’t yet been convicted of anything, but are kept behind
In California, an organization called Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC) is doing work similar to the work of Texas Jail Project and Mama Sana and Moms of Color Rising. They recently formed a committee of advocates to launch a new strategy for improving health care for pregnant and post postpartum women in California jails and prisons. Their goals are excellent and practical, and they also emphasize an important objective: a change in perception. They describe it as “Shifting the paradigm around who people think women prisoners are, and figuring out how to get legislative campaigns and other information to a larger public.”
If you are a diabetic and are arrested for any reason, once you’re in a jail, you are guaranteed medical care, correct? No, not so much. The American Diabetes Association must have been to Texas lately because this piece opens by saying “People with diabetes frequently experience problems with medical care while in detention. The consequences of this improper care can be stark: periods of unconsciousness leading to injuries, infections and amputations, vision loss and blindness, hospitalization, brain damage, and even death. Even when no long term physical harm occurs, the fear and uncertainty caused by improper medical care can cause enduring emotional and psychological damage to people with diabetes in detention, and their concerned family and friends.” Texas Jail Project has had several reports of people in county jails who fail to receive the correct dosage of insulin and improper diets are very common.
“The best time to deal with a failure to appear case is before you are caught. There may be excellent defenses and negotiations possible to make this go away, and get you a new court date. However, if you are caught and arrested, your opportunities to argue for a reasonable outcome are much more limited.”