The numbers of people dying in county jails are adding up in 2014—and the recent death of 18-year-old Victoria Gray was especially tragic and needless. She died in September in the Brazoria County Jail after that jail failed in so many ways, it will take a full investigation to find the truth and hold officers and officials accountable. So many people are dying, most of them not yet convicted, and yet their deaths are not always investigated. (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? David Grimaldo, 18, a Perryton High School student died just hours after being booked into the Ochiltree County Jail. Sheriff Joe Hataway reported that the teen died of a medical condition—could a quicker response have prevented his death?
- Victoria, victim of a Texas county jail
- My son: a Marine veteran in solitary
- Are Texas jails holding too many people pretrial?
- How do Texas county jails treat pregnant inmates?
- Ban the Box: people with records working out well
- “Lucky dogs” freeze in Eastland County
- Starting a Pretrial Intervention Program
- Thursday, Aug. 7th: Jail Standards quarterly meeting
- Texas county jails can do better than this
- Jailhouse Stories: Effects of Pretrial Detention
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:
The Montgomery County jail has recently made news because of its overcrowding issues, and articles from Grits for Breakfast and Houston Press’ blog have rightly emphasized that a significant part of the problem is due to high rates of pretrial detention. The August 2014 population report from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards states that 73.15% of inmates being held in Montgomery County (MoCo) are considered pretrial, meaning that they have yet to be convicted of anything and are presumably innocent until proven guilty. And yet those 812 pretrial inmates in MoCo this month are still being subjected to the difficult reality of being overcrowded in a jail with questionable conditions, often simply because they and their families are not able to afford the high bail amounts issued by the court.
Maurice Dutton understands the feeling of complete helplessness in the face of mental illness. His son Michael was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 14. Three years later, in 1980, he was involuntarily admitted to Austin State Hospital after local facilities proved inadequate to help him. For the rest of his son’s life, Maurice watched Michael’s painful journey through Texas’ mental health and prison systems.
“My son Adan is in solitary confinement. Why? Because the jail considers that is the “safest” way to hold someone with a medical/mental condition. I was told that is for his good and the good of others. He does not have the opportunity to eat or mingle with other inmates. He has been in solitary confinement
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
A woman cries out for help, but the correctional officers ignore her and she is forced to go through labor and give birth with no help. The infant dies. Other women have described similar scenarios to Texas Jail Project co-founders Diane Wilson and Diana Claitor, and we have posted a video of a woman describing how she gave birth alone in a cell–with a happier ending, since her baby lived. Click through to see that video and read more about Nicole Guerrero’s lawsuit against the Wichita Falls Jail.
Diane Wilson, co-founder of Texas Jail Project, has described the misery of being numb with cold and wrapping her arms with toilet paper…but people think anybody with air conditioning is a “lucky dog.” Now, listen to the current “conditioning” in the Eastland County Jail: “They have the AC set as low as it will go, they say they will have it ‘fixed’ but do nothing. the inmates are freezing, teeth chattering, their bunks are like ice and the inmates tried to cover the vent and the officers removed the covering …” And she reports that if family members complain, the officers take it out on the inmates.
Once the initial charging decision is reached in a case, a prosecutor is concerned with the appropriate resolution. Experience tells us that cases can be broken down into four simple categories:
• good people doing something stupid;
• bad people doing something stupid;
• good people doing something bad; and
• bad people doing something bad.