About Us

Who we are and what we do

The Texas Jail Project works to:

  • improve the conditions for approximately 65,000 people—mothers, fathers, brothers, sons, sisters, daughters, and friends—who are incarcerated in Texas county jails;
  • provide information to Texans seeking strategies and solutions for loved ones enduring neglect and poor medical care in county jails;
  • write articles, contribute to news reports, raise awareness and support positive action from lawmakers, the media, and the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.

Current county jail procedures are devastating the lives and mental health of inmates, many of whom are inside for low-level, non-violent offenses. We seek to transform this culture inside and outside of jails.

Executive Director: Diana Claitor

Image 2

Project Coordinator: Emily Ling

Image 3

Board of Directors

Maria Anna Esparza, president
Fran Clark, secretary
Kinnu Gundu
Greg Hansch
Matt Simpson, treasurer
Chandra Villanueva

Our issue areas

  • Women and Pregnant Women in County Jails
    The 247 Texas county jails hold about 400 pregnant inmates at one time. This initiative works to ensure that they are not shackled during childbirth, and monitors conditions, including their medical and dietary needs, in accordance with HB 3653 and 3654. In 2015, we began work to educate lawmakers about implementation; two new bills were filed to address these needs: HB 1140 and HB 1141.
  • 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. Of 255 deaths in the past 4 years, about 1/3 are due to lack of mental and psychiatric health care resulting in suicide, and many more result from medical neglect and untreated substance withdrawal.
  • Effects of Pretrial Detention
    More than 60% of the people held in the average jail in Texas are pretrial detainees. TJP seeks to publicize the negative effects of that incarceration, as well as racial disproportionality of pretrial detention more often affecting people of color. Our collection of personal narratives educates officials, community leaders and media about the negative effects of incarcerating people who could be out on bail or in diversion programs.
  • Special Populations
    This program examines best jail practices with regard to persons experiencing mental illness, substance abuse, homelessness, veteran status, as well as people with LGBTQ identities and who are undocumented immigrants.
  • Stop the Privatizing of County Jails
    We support efforts to publicize the negative impact of privatization, and directly help individuals with family members suffering in facilities run by private companies.

History

2011: Co-founders Diane Wilson and Diana Claitor wait to speak at a hearing about issues affecting inmates in county jails.

TJP has also worked with various churches, the Texas ACLU, the Catholic Conference of Texas, the Texas Civil Rights Project and national groups such as the Rebecca Project and the National Advocates for Pregnant Women to support better treatment for inmates.

TJP’s director and volunteers collect information by:

  • attending the quarterly meetings and workshops of the Texas Commission for Jail Standards
  • soliciting stories and input which are then posted as “Inmate Stories” on the website
  • speaking with jailers and administrators of county lockups
  • engaging in dialogue with volunteeers and administrators of various non-profits and church groups who are likeminded in that they work to improve conditions and facilitate programs in jails, especially for women.
TJP’s website, which was visited by more than 105,000 visitors in 2014, provides
  • information on how to complain and where to complain
  • a medical release form with an explanation of the purpose and function of these releases
  • tips on visitation and locations of jails
  • lists of other organizations and government agencies that may be needed by families of inmates and inmates themselves.

History

Diane Wilson proposed that something should be done to help women in jail while she was still in the Victoria County Jail herself, in 2006. She was encouraged by Ann Wright, the nationally-known peace activist and retired U.S. Army Colonel. After she served her sentence, Wilson and two supporters, Houston activist Krishnaveni (Kinnu) Gundu and Austin writer/historian Diana Claitor decided to start an organization to call attention to how the conditions in the often over-crowded local lockups can permanently damage inmates, their families and the entire community.

The official name of the group on the Secretary of State website is The Jail Project of Texas.