Would you like to be a Story Gatherer for Texas Jail Project? We’re inviting you to help us collect stories in your community—or contribute your own story about a county jail in Texas. And this week we are connecting our Jailhouse Stories to Nation Inside, a national website!
Nation Inside is an online platform that supports people all over the United States who are working to challenge mass incarceration. On our front page, click on the video Jailhouse Stories Invitation in which Maria Anna describes her son’s long pretrial incarceration in the Comal County Jail and why it’s important to tell his story. You can also still email email@example.com to tell us your story or ask questions.
- Maria Anna invites you to Jailhouse Stories
- Are Texas counties complying with the Prisoner Rape Elimination Act?
- TJP’s Jailhouse Stories Go National
- Nueces County Jail: Facts vs. Lies
- 19th Century Harris County Jail: shouting to be heard
- When do you call on the feds to investigate?
- Robert Rowan: A Smith County tragedy
- Indigent defendants in Comal County first in U.S. to pick attorneys
- See you on the other side, Robert
- To my little brother
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:
When Sheriff Kaelin talks about his overcrowded jail, he likes to mention all the growth in Corpus and all the criminals in Corpus. A recent TV report dutifully quotes him without analyzing his “facts,” but lucky for us, Grits for Breakfast does. Blogger Scott Henson lays it out in plain Enlish: “Virtually all of the difference in the Nueces County jail population is accounted for by increased pretrial detention, which …. is a policy decision by judges and prosecutors, not a function of “growth.” And keep in mind this is a period when crime rates dramatically declined.” So this is a jail where 62% of the people are awaiting disposition of their cases—pretrial—and THAT is the big fact behind your overcrowding. You don’t need more room in the jail, Sheriff, you need more smarts in the courtrooms.
Finally! Houston Chronicle reporter James Pinkerton brings attention to an often overlooked subject that is so important to prisoners and their families: visitation at the Baker Street jail. Texas Jail Project has long wanted to shine a light on what one older father called 19th century conditions when he came to visit his son week after week, and couldn’t hear anything he said.
This excerpt is from our interview (see Inmate Stories) of an observant woman held 13 months there: “At Harris County Jail, the visitation rooms do not provide telephones; they have plexiglass windows with holes in them through which inmates and visitors have to shout at one another to be heard. It is extremely stressful to receive a visitor because it is so difficult to hear anything over all the shouting that is going on [around you]. I finally worked out a system with my uncles, who came to see me regularly, to bring paper and pen and we communicated by writing messages to one another, instead of trying to yell through the plexiglass…. Thus, even visitation was an unpleasant and stressful event ….” Despite her loneliness and despair during her long pretrial detention, when she saw how hard visitation was on family members, she told them to stop coming.
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.
Maria Ana shares about her son’s experience of being held pretrial in a Texas county jail for 3 years.
From Robert Rowan’s family: “Robert was born Aug 27, 1987, and he was a great man. He loved his family with all his heart. He loved to be out on the boat with his cousin William. He enjoyed working on cars, riding dirt bikes, riding back roads, having a cold beer and just enjoying life.
There is not a day that goes by that we don’t think about Robert.
His death was something that should not have happened.”
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.
The American Friends Service Committee recommends that this country stop what it’s doing to incarcerated citizens and begin serious reform by taking the following steps. 1. Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture. 2. Removing a human being from their community, depriving them of human contact, denying them of stimuli and subjecting them
In 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice did did a huge national study, ranking more than 350 jails by the rate of sexual abuse reported by prisoners. Houston’s Harris County Jail came in third. To make matters worse, many of those raped while held in our Texas county jails are unconvicted—pretrial detainees—who make up more than 60% of