About Jail Project of Texas
Who we are and what we do:
The Texas Jail Project seeks to improve the conditions for approximately 67,000 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. The county jails hold about 500 pregnant inmates at one time.
- 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.
- Effects of Pretrial Detention: More than 60% of the people held in the average jail in Texas are pretrial detainees. TJP is Lengthy Pretrial Detention: More than 60% of the people held in the average jail in Texas are pretrial detainees. TJP is collecting stories and using those to educate officials and community leaders and local media about the negative effects of holding people who could be out on bail or in a diversion program.
- 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 the Privatizing of County Jails TJP supports efforts to publicize the negative impact of privatization and directly help individuals with family members suffering in facilities run by private companies.
On a day to day basis, we provide information to Texans seeking strategies and solutions for loved ones enduring neglect and poor medical care in jails. We also devote much time to explaining issues to lawmakers, members of the media, and members of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. We communicate with other organizations about ways that all of us can work together to improve positive outcomes for the people incarcerated in our county jails.
Much of our work is done by volunteers; we could not help Texans in need without the contributions of Kinnu Gundu, Grace Jacks, Erica Gammill, Virginia Raymond, Maria Anna Esparza, Sue Ann Lorig, Margarita McAuliffe, and former system administrator, David Hanson. We appreciate the work/support of our current system administrator, Iris Tejaztlana Borsegui.
2011: Co-founders Diane Wilson and Diana Claitor waiting to speak at a hearing about issues affecting inmates in county jails.
2014 Board of Directors
- Maria Anna Esparza, acting president
- Fran Clark, secretary
- Kinnu Gundu
- Greg Hansch
- Matt Simpson, treasurer
- Chandra Villanueva
Executive Director: Diana Claitor
Project Coordinator: Emily Ling
More About What We Do
TJP answers questions from people who have a loved one in a county jail because it is often hard to get information about jails from the jailers themselves. Our volunteers also interview inmates and publish their stories. Our director writes articles and gives informative talks about the inhumane conditions, lack of medical treatment and the overly long holding of people awaiting trial, known as excessive pretrial detention. The current county jail procedures are devastating the lives and mental health of inmates, many of whom are inside for low-level, non-violent offenses.
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.
- 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.
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. (See VISITING DIANE WILSON IN JAIL ) 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.
From Winston Churchill:
“The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilisation of any country. A calm and dispassionate recognition of the rights of the accused against the State, and even of convicted criminals against the State, a constant heart-searching by all charged with the duty of punishment … and an unfaltering faith that there is a treasure, if you can only find it, in the heart of every man – these are the symbols which in the treatment of crime and criminals mark and measure the stored-up strength of a nation, and are the sign and proof of the living virtue in it.”