Are Texas jails holding too many people pretrial?

Lead Article

Are Texas jails holding too many people pretrial?

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.

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

    Ban the Box: people with records working out well Ban the Box: people with records working out well

    In North Carolina, the Ban the Box campaign—removing questions about conviction history from initial job applications– is producing good results, both for the counties and for people who have served their time and want to work. We need to see more of this in Texas! Reported by a great newsletter produced by California advocates at Legal Services for Prisoners with Children.

    Mentally ill Texans have to rely on ER and jails Mentally ill Texans have to rely on ER and jails

    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.

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

    About 500 pregnant women are incarcerated in Texas county jails each month. 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.

    Families Speak Out

    My son: a Marine veteran in solitary

    “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

    Jailhouse Stories

    Jailhouse Stories: Effects of Pretrial Detention Jailhouse Stories: Effects of Pretrial Detention

    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

    Women and Jails

    Texas county jails can do better than this Texas county jails can do better than this

    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.

    Conditions in County Jails

    “Lucky dogs” freeze in Eastland County “Lucky dogs” freeze in Eastland County

    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.

    Legal Issues & Jails

    Starting a Pretrial Intervention Program

    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.

    No categories