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Hank’s family goes to court for justice

Apr 11th, 2014 | By
Hank’s family goes to court for justice

Hank died a terrible, unnecessary death in the Bowie County Jail, which is run by a private prison company with a bad reputation: Community Education Centers. I always suspected the family would have a good case if they decided to sue. Last week, I receieved a noted from Dr. Parks, Hank’s good friend, and then I saw the story in the Washington Times about the federal lawsuit.
His family members and a close friend contacted Texas Jail Project soon after his death in 2012 and gave us all the information as they agonized over his painful death. We encouraged them to write the following bio of his life (On the next page) Their bio is full of rich details and stories of a life well lived, of a man valued by his community, especially the little boys he took fishing. We hope the jail staff reads it and thinks of him every time somebody in their facility is in pain and calling out for help.



TJP director speaks at County Affairs hearing

Mar 17th, 2014 | By
TJP director speaks at County Affairs hearing

Rep. Garnet Coleman, chair of the House Committee on County Affairs, exchanged comments with Texas Jail Project’s director in Livingston last week, during a hearing on county jails and government. Director Diana Claitor described the hundreds of complaints from families about the lack of psychiatric meds; she said the Texas Commission on Jail Standards doesn’t hold the jails accountable when they fail to provide necessary meds to mentally ill people. “Texas Jail Project staff recently obtained the Commission’s Notices of Non-compliance for the past three years through 2013. Of the 169 jails found not in compliance with standards, only one was cited for failure to dispense medication,” said Claitor.



Some Texas jails are banning books!

Feb 9th, 2014 | By
Some Texas jails are banning books!

Would you help Texas Jail Project ensure the constitutional rights of prisoners to receive and read publications? A majority of people in 245 local jails are pretrial or awaiting disposition of their cases–not even convicted–and yet in some, they are not allowed to read anything except the Bible. We need volunteers to help us conduct an a survey of jail policy, by phoning the jails. More details available if you email us at diana@texasjailrproject.org … Sheriffs and jails forbidding reading material is such a problem that the Texas Commission on Jail Standards posted a letter on their website last fall, saying, “In other words, personal preferences of jail staff should not be a basis for banning a particular publication.” (See http://www.tcjs.state.tx.us/docs/TAMemoPrisonLegalNews.pdf)



Cali & Texas: in step to stop nighttime releases

Jan 27th, 2014 | By
Cali & Texas: in step to stop nighttime releases

A Texas jail may be a model for the newly proposed bill in California to ban the practice of dumping people out of county jails in the dark of night! Texas Jail Project feels some ownership of the idea: in 2011 we supported SB 1014 bill by bringing stories and people to the legislative committees, demonstrating cases of trauma and even death where Texans were released at rural and urban county jails. Senator Whitmire’s support and the grim accounts resulted in Harris County Jail stopping its policy of mass releases at night. This excellent article describes how California Senator Liu’s bill will try to ban their late night releases–a worthy goal in light of the tragic and needless death of Mitrice Richardson, a beautiful young woman released from the Malibu jail in the wee hours and later found dead.



New York Times Story on Henderson County Jail

Jan 18th, 2014 | By
New York Times Story on Henderson County Jail

In this new story picked up by the New York Times, a Henderson county lawyer complains about a judge who has the nerve to speak out about jail operations. “He has absolutely no business trying to be a doctor from the bench,” says Robert Davis. Of course, Judge Tarrance has all the business in the world doing that, since people have reported ongoing neglect and mistreatment –numerous cases! Texas Jail Project heard from a woman last week who was forced to stay in a cell totally naked and denied her right to call a lawyer or bailbondsman. And like most of the inmates, she was not yet convicted, but was being held pretrial.
So the county is outraged by a judge who took the unusual steps of ordering medical care and going public? We say it’s about time.



We ask San Antonio: how is the jail now?

Jan 10th, 2014 | By
We ask San Antonio: how is the jail now?

To BEXAR COUNTY families:

Bexar County’s sheriff is now Susan Pamerleau and she has said, “I pledge to the citizens of Bexar County to make public safety my number one priority, with a strong foundation of stewardship of taxpayer dollars; improvements in jail operations; and family violence prevention initiatives.”

Please email us at Diana@texasjailproject.org to report all experiences with the jail in the past year. Texas Jail Project also wants to know about diversion programs in Bexar County–how well are they serving the people of San Antonio?



10 million misdemeanors deform our justice system

Dec 16th, 2013 | By
10 million misdemeanors deform our justice system

When you are charged with a misdemeanor, you may think you will have a chance to prove your innocence, but that’s before you discover the reality—that you are now part of the assembly line justice system. This important story explains how people, innocent or not, “are pressured by judges, prosecutors, and their own lawyers into pleading guilty, often without knowledge of their rights or the nature of the charges against them. Bail makes it worse. Around 80 percent of defendants who have bail set cannot afford to pay it. Innocent defendants commonly plead guilty just to get out of jail. In this way, millions of Americans are punished without due process and learn the cynical lesson that, at least when it comes to minor offenses, law and evidence aren’t all that important.”



Equality for LGBT Inmates at Harris County Jail

Nov 16th, 2013 | By
Equality for LGBT Inmates at Harris County Jail

Is this a new day or what? Harris County’s Sheriff says, “We stay ahead of the curve…” and institutes a gay, lesbian, bisexual and trangender policy that is comprehensive and progressive. Sheriff Garcia of Houston is in charge of the third-largest county jail in the U.S., where 125,000 are booked annually. At least 2.8 percent identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Harris County’s new policy concerning inmates prohibits discrimination or harassment of any kind based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Now, we hope this means that LGBT inmates will also get good medical care and decent treatment–a concern since we are still hearing of Houston inmates of all genders and identifications who don’t necessarily get that while incarcerated there.
Not saying that caring for 8, 900 human beings is an easy job. Just saying it’s an important job to do right.



Harris County: Poor people get longer jail time

Sep 20th, 2013 | By
Harris County: Poor people get longer jail time

A new report states that Harris County defendents don’t receive jail time based on age, race, or the nature of the charge–it’s based on how much money they have: “What generally determines the defendants’ fate is his or her economic status.”
“If the accused is unable to afford financial bail, he or she will quickly learn, in Harris County, the punishment is weeks or months of pretrial incarceration,” say researchers from the Orange Jumpsuit Report. The hard data behind this important report corroborates what is known in poor communities all over Texas. In most of Texas 247 county jails, people without resources languish in pretrial detention–losing their jobs, their families, and sometimes their physical and mental health. The Texas Observer’s Emily DePrang succinctly summarizes the various complexities.



The free jail myth: stop pretending incarceration pays for itself

Sep 9th, 2013 | By
The free jail myth: stop pretending incarceration pays for itself

Grits for Breakfast is the criminal justice blog that includes political analysis by Scott Henson. Now Scott has said a mouthful about the unethical and shortsighted practice of building more jails “without costing taxpayers money” – a myth masking the reality of overincarceration.
But some sheriffs keep on telling their towns to build, build, build. Nueces County Sheriff Kaelin is one of those and he just keeps on pushing for more jails, ignoring the fact, as Henson says, that the underlying cause of most overcrowding is due to local judges and excessive bail requirements. Real solutions are found in good programs and pretrial services, not bigger jails.