“We spend a tremendous amount of money on our jails, and it’s not because we are keeping violent criminals in jail, it’s because for years we have been inefficient in the way we process these individuals,” says El Paso county commissioner Vince Perez. Nearly 3/4 of the 1600 inmates in the El Paso County jail are awaiting their first appearance in court, which can take up to 45 days! Imagine how much money that wastes while wrecking families and the livelihoods of those being held pretrial. Perez says that El Paso wants to change that. In this excellent story in the El Paso Times, it becomes obvious that the bail bondsmen are the only ones who find this new plan controversial.
Judging pregnant women is easy to do, especially when they’re in jail. To hear people talk, you would think that these women set out to a. get pregnant and b. get themselves thrown in jail. Worse still, some officers and officials go on to dismiss any incarcerated woman as immoral, irresponsible, and unconcerned about her baby.
Consequently, when she complains about a lack of food, water, and vitamins, or a lack of medical care, everything she says can be dismissed as a lie. But you already knew that all inmates lie, right?
In a new, in-depth investigatory series from RH Reality Check, we hear an LVN answer a staffer reporting a pregnant woman in extreme distress by saying, “You can go eyeball her and call me back if you want. She’s probably full of shit.” After an agonizing amount of neglect and trauma, that woman’s twin babies died.
Would you like to be a Story Gatherer for Texas Jail Project? We’re inviting you to help us collect stories in your community—or contribute your own story about a county jail in Texas. And this week we are connecting our Jailhouse Stories to Nation Inside, a national website!
Nation Inside is an online platform that supports people all over the United States who are working to challenge mass incarceration. On our front page, click on the video Jailhouse Stories Invitation in which Maria Anna describes her son’s long pretrial incarceration in the Comal County Jail and why it’s important to tell his story. You can also still email email@example.com to tell us your story or ask questions.
“”The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, created in 1957 by the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, works to uphold the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans, particularly some of the most vulnerable members of our society.”
We believe that those “vulnerable members” include people in Texas county jails. Especially in those counties where we hear from numerous familes begging for help for loved ones: sons abused by other prisoners and guards, pregnant daughters losing weight and needing care, veterans with mental illness locked in solitary, geriatric parents needing medical care. That’s when you call on the DOJ.
Mentally ill Texans caught up in the criminal justice system do not fare well, for the most part. The complexities of their illnesses and the limitations of the county jails lead to nightmare situations, but there is one contributing factor that could be changed: currently, mentally ill people are dropped from the Medicaid rolls and benefits are TERMINATED after 30 days in a county jail. Read this editorial from the Houston Chronicle about a common sense solution to correct this situation in the coming legislative session.
The Marshall Project has published Maurice Chammah’s new story about Marine veteran Adan Castañeda with the subtitle, “Does he belong in a prison or a hospital?” Looking at his history of mental illness and trauma, it seems obvious that the 28-year-old former scout sniper needs psychiatric care in a hospital. But when he goes on trial, he could receive a long sentence in TDCJ, despite the fact that he did not injure anyone when he shot up his parents’ house. During the more than three years he’s been held pretrial in the Comal County Jail, he has deteriorated. His mother reports that Castañeda no longer always remembers his service, and he often expresses fear and paranoia. While she believes her son can be well again, she doubts that outcome is possible in a prison setting.
A new coalition is in town: Texas Jail Project, Mama Sana/Vibrant Women along with ACLU of Texas and Amnesty International. You are welcome to join in—we need all the help we can get—because it will take a concerted effort to move the Texas Commission on Jail Standards and county sheriffs to make changes in the way they care for pregnant inmates in county jails.
In this San Antonio Current article, Alexa Garcia-Ditta provides outstanding writing on this complex subject. She leads with the story of 29-year-old Shela Williams, who was incarcerated in the Travis County Jail during a high-risk pregnancy. Her baby Israel died, and Shela wasn’t allowed to attend his funeral. She shares her painful story, to raise awareness of the need for better health care for pregnant women in local jails.
Please join us for an evening of food, drinks, fun, and the music of Gina Chavez! And we have Sarah Eckhardt, now our new Travis County Judge, speaking about conditions in county jails and the importance of TJP’s work—all at the lovely historic home of Ginny Agnew and Chuck Herring, known for progressive leadership, poetry, politics, and great parties.
Thursday, November 13th, 7 pm to 10 pm
1204 Castle Hill Street, in Clarksville, Austin
Continue to the next page for reasons why it’s important to buy a ticket and a link to the page where you can buy them!
In May, a woman named Nicole Guerrero filed a lawsuit against the Wichita County Jail for ignoring her when she was in labor. Locked alone in a cell, Nicole gave birth on a mat on the floor to a premature baby who died.What’s going on in Texas? Jails in the state are endangering pregnant women and their fetuses, despite the state’s professed interest in “unborn babies.”
In July, a woman named Jessica De Samito in the Guadalupe County Jail worried she might face a similar fate. Jail officials were noncommittal about giving Jessica the methadone she needs to keep from going into sudden withdrawal – a physically draining process that can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth.
The numbers of people dying in county jails are adding up in 2014—and most recently, one of them was especially tragic. Only 18, Victoria Gray died in September in the Brazoria County Jail after that jail failed in so many ways, it will take a full investigation to sort that out and hold officers and officials accountable. Some, like Victoria, die of suicide while others die of what is called “natural causes,” and their deaths are not always investigated. (More have died in police custody or other facilities; we are only listing those in county jails.) Earlier this year, the list included Courtney Ruth Elmore, was 33 years old. She died February 11, 2014, around 7:00 a.m.. in the Brown County Jail. Was the staff 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. The Ochiltree County Sheriff Joe Hataway read from an autopsy report saying that the teen died of a medical condtion complicated by intoxication. Could it have been prevented?