The Death Of Victoria Gray: How Texas Jails Are Failing Their Most Vulnerable Captives

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The Death Of Victoria Gray: How Texas Jails Are Failing Their Most Vulnerable Captives

Just over a year ago, 18-year-old Victoria was found hanging from a bookshelf inside her isolated jail cell. An investigation into her death exposed that jailers, in direct violation of the law, failed to check on her nearly a dozen times and failed to contact a judge for days despite her mental health screening results. In honor of Victoria, Think Progress took a closer look at suicides in Texas jails and found a deadly and systemic pattern of neglect. “A lot of people don’t realize how much damage can be done to individuals in the county jails,” says Texas Jail Project’s Executive Director, Diana Claitor.

Who We Are and What We Do

The 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:
  • Women and Pregnant Women in County Jails: This ongoing initiative works to monitor conditions for pregnant inmates, including their medical and dietary needs, in accordance with HB 3654, and to ensure that they are not shackled during childbirth or postpartum, in accordance with HB 3653.
  • Deadly Jails of Texas: This research and reporting project monitors deaths in custody at county jails in Texas, where more people die each month than die from execution in a year, e.g. 255 deaths in the past 4 years. About 1/3 are due to suicide and many result from medical neglect and untreated withdrawal. Special Populations: This program examines best practices with regard to other populations likely to be housed in county jails, including persons with mental illness, substance abusers, homeless people, veterans, and undocumented immigrants.
  • Stop Privatizing County Jails (SPCJ) Through this initiative, TJP works with other groups and the Texas Commission on Jail Standards to publicize the negative impact of privatization and directly help individuals with family members suffering in facilities run by private companies.
  • Featured Articles

    Nathan King’s Mother Remembers Her Loving Son Nathan King’s Mother Remembers Her Loving Son

    Nathan D. King was part of the Livingston, Texas community when he died at the age of 37 in 2015. He was also part of a close family, and his mother, Mrs. Timmie King, has plenty of memories, such as how much he loved her cooking, animals, football, and , of course, his three children.

    You Can Come to Jail Commission Meetings You Can Come to Jail Commission Meetings

    Next meeting is November the 5th, 9 am, and anyone can come. The time for public input, when YOU can speak, is at the very beginning, at 9 am. Don’t be late if you want to speak. The meetings occur in Austin every 3 months. Check when the next meeting is by clicking on this link on meeting of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.

    Dozens of inmates die in Texas jails each year Dozens of inmates die in Texas jails each year

    Texas Jail Project director Diana Claitor discussing inmate deaths in Texas jails on KXAN news.

    A son lost to a Texas city jail A son lost to a Texas city jail

    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.

    Pregnant in a Texas County Jail? Pregnant in a Texas County Jail?

    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.


    County Jail Survey County Jail Survey

    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.

    Pretrial Detention

    Carlota Torres tells the story of her son’s nine months in Bexar County Jail: Carlota Torres tells the story of her son’s nine months in Bexar County Jail:

    Carlota shares how Bexar county neglected her son who has a history of epilepsy and mental health issues, while he was held for 9 months before having a trial. In telling their story, Mr. and Mrs. Torres hope to raise public awareness of how jailing people with mental disorders for months while they await trial can lead to further trauma and injuries.

    Families Speak Out

    Mom glad to see Harris Co improve Mom glad to see Harris Co improve

    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

    Women and Jails

    Widespread abuse of pregnant inmates Widespread abuse of pregnant inmates

    Judging pregnant women is easy to do, especially when they’re in jail. The way some people talk, you’d think that these women set out to a. get pregnant and b. get themselves thrown in jail. Worse still, some officers and officials go on to dismiss any incarcerated woman as immoral, irresponsible, and unconcerned about her baby.
    Consequently, when she complains about a lack of food, water, and vitamins, or a lack of medical care, everything she says can be dismissed as a lie. But you already knew that all inmates lie, right?
    In a new, in-depth investigatory series from RH Reality Check, we hear an LVN answer a staffer reporting a pregnant woman in extreme distress by saying, “You can go eyeball her and call me back if you want. She’s probably full of shit.” After an agonizing amount of neglect and trauma, that woman’s twin babies died.

    Conditions in County Jails

    Tips: When a Mentally Ill Loved One is Arrested Tips: When a Mentally Ill Loved One is Arrested

    Having a loved one arrested who has mental health issues is a scary and overwhelming situation. Family members are often forced to become advocates, to ensure their loved ones get the proper mental health screening, medications, and treatment. They can make an important difference in how the person in jail is treated.

    Here is list of first steps to take to advocate for your loved one’s safety and health.