Who is dying in our local jails?

Lead Article

Who is dying in our local jails?

We are already seeing the numbers adding up in 2014—and many of them are young people dying of what are usually called natural causes and their deaths are being investigated. More have died in police custody or other facilities; we are only listing those in county jails.

Here are two of the saddest to us: Courtney Ruth Elmore, seen in the photo, was only 33 years old. She died February 11, 2014, around 7:00 a.m.. in the Brown County Jail. Was staff 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 read from an autopsy report, saying that the teen died of a medical condtion complicated by intoxication.

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

    Disabled Veteran Tells about Montgomery County Jail Disabled Veteran Tells about Montgomery County Jail

    I’m James Bernard, a pastor and a disabled veteran. I was jailed on a warrant by the Judge on a probation revocation due to a failed urinalysis. Although I had provided my probation officer a letter from my doctor stating what medication I took–Phenobarbital—and that it was necessary for seizures, the officer failed to turn

    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.

    Instead of Travis County Jail: A Sobering Center Instead of Travis County Jail: A Sobering Center

    People + too much alcohol = public intoxication charges. The right formula? Not really.
    Consider the results of those arrests: a. Pretrial detention in a jail, where anything can and does happen to a person sobering up.
    b. a criminal record for people who are often otherwise law-abiding.
    c. officers waste hours booking drunks instead of pursuing serious criminals.
    Of all the arrests in a year, about 10% of them are for this Class C misdemeanor, crowding the jail cells. Houston and San Antonio already have sobering centers. This healthier alternative to the Travis County Jail is explored in an editorial from the Austin American-Statesman, March 12, 2014.

    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

    In MOCO deal, you sign away your rights In MOCO deal, you sign away your rights

    Montgomery County families report that their young people are being pressured into deferred adjudication and a drug treatment program only to find it enormously expensive—and then the families have to pay and pay. And listen to these requirements: “Participant agrees to submit his person, property, place of residence, vehicle, personal effects, to search at anytime, with or without a search warrant,

    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

    Texas County Jail Nurse Speaks Out! Texas County Jail Nurse Speaks Out!

    A medical officer at a Texas county jail wrote us about her job & what inmates need to know. This is exactly the kind of thing we need to hear this from those working inside jails, especially since more people have died in just the past few weeks–inmates in Gregg and Bexar and Ector counties.
    “To My Inmates,
    Yes, I call you “my” Inmates. Sometimes I even call you my kids. There are 600 of you and one of me, the Medical Sgt. I am a nurse. I care what happens to you. I care what your family is going through while you are here. When I interviewed for my job I was asked what would be the most difficult thing I felt I might have to go through. My answer…… losing one of you. A death in custody. You are my responsibility.”

    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