Our mission statement:
To ensure more humane and healthier county jails in Texas by publicizing the widespread problems and neglect of people held in these local facilities, including the majority who are pretrial and not yet convicted; by assisting families to gain access to information and contacts that will make it possible for them to assist their loved ones; by providing those families and the inmates themselves with a way to tell their stories and join in our work; by producing reports and story collections that inform the media, legislators and the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS).
The work of Texas Jail Project:
- 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 jails and provide support to families outside jails.
Executive Director: Diana Claitor
Communications Coordinator: Rebecca Larsen
Board of Directors
Maria Anna Esparza, president
Fran Clark, secretary
Don Wilson Glenn Kinnu Gundu
Matt Simpson, treasurer
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.
2011: Co-founders Diane Wilson & Diana Claitor wait to speak at a hearing about issues affecting people 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.
- 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. 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.