The Montgomery County jail has recently made news because of its overcrowding issues, and articles from Grits for Breakfast and Houston Press’ blog have rightly emphasized that a significant part of the problem is due to high rates of pretrial detention. The August 2014 population report from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards states that 73.15% of inmates being held in Montgomery County (MoCo) are considered pretrial, meaning that they have yet to be convicted of anything and are presumably innocent until proven guilty. And yet those 812 pretrial inmates in MoCo this month are still being subjected to the difficult reality of being overcrowded in a jail with questionable conditions, often simply because they and their families are not able to afford the high bail amounts issued by the court.
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.