The numbers of people dying in county jails are adding up in 2014. On October 6th, 37-year-old Iretha Lilly died hours after being tased by a McLennan County deputy; because of many reports to us of jailers failing to respond to a person in a medical crisis, we have to ask how long was Ms. Lilly in heart failure before she was taken to the ER? The recent death of 18-year-old Victoria Gray was especially tragic and needless. She died in September in the Brazoria County Jail after that jail failed in so many ways, it will take a full investigation to find the truth and hold officers and officials accountable. So many people are dying, most of them not yet convicted, and yet their deaths are not always investigated. (Our list is only of deaths within county jails, not police custody.) Earlier this year, when Courtney Ruth Elmore died in the Brown County Jail, was staff properly 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 reported that the teen died of a medical condition—could a quicker response have prevented his death?
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.
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.