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Voices of Texans in Pretrial Detention: “Jailhouse Stories”

Apr 2nd, 2016 | By
Voices of Texans in Pretrial Detention: “Jailhouse Stories”

“Sharing my story might not make it more safe for myself, but I would like to make it safe for someone else. Hopefully, the cycle will be broken one day,” says John Brown, a contributor to Jailhouse Stories who was jailed at Dallas County Jail for two and a half years while waiting for a trial.
This week, a new website, “Jailhouse Stories: Voices from Pretrial Detention in Texas,” was released by Texas Jail Project. Collected over a two-year period, these powerful stories document a pattern of mistreatment and poor conditions experienced by those incarcerated in county jails while pretrial—innocent in the eyes of the law and awaiting their day in court.



Jailhouse Stories: Voices of Pretrial Detention in Texas is here!

Apr 1st, 2016 | By
Jailhouse Stories: Voices of Pretrial Detention in Texas is here!

In a video on the Jailhouse Stories website, the father of 18-year-old Victoria Gray speaks to the state Senate Criminal Justice committee about his daughter’s suicide.

“Heard a lot about forms here, and my daughter’s intake form actually had the checkmark that said suicidal. Four days later she was able to leave that jail dead,” said John Gray III. “There was absolutely no doubt that Brazoria County [knew] my daughter was suicidal.”



Bail System Keeps Unconvicted in Texas Jails

Mar 26th, 2016 | By
Bail System Keeps Unconvicted in Texas Jails

by Lynda Frost, Austin-American Statesman, March 25, 2016
It seems like a simple series of events: Someone is arrested and charged with a crime. They have a hearing. The judge orders bail in order to either keep them off the street if they are considered dangerous or to increase the odds that they’ll show up for court. End of story.
What’s obscured by that simple and deceptive story is that the actual bail system in Texas — and nearly every other state — too often serves to punish poverty, exacerbate mental illness and burden the state with unnecessary costs while failing to make the public any safer.
It doesn’t have to be this way.



Waco: Lawsuits and Violations in the Jack Harwell Jail

Dec 29th, 2015 | By
Waco: Lawsuits and Violations in the Jack Harwell Jail

TJP staff authored this Waco Tribune guest column about neglect, abuse, and death occurring in Waco’s privately run Jack Harwell jail. Here’s an excerpt: ” LaSalle Corrections is the for-profit company that runs the Jack Harwell Center for McLennan County.
‘We think they’re excellent operators and, unfortunately, sometimes things like this happen,’ said McLennan County Judge Scott Felton.
But that’s not what families with loved ones in that jail say.”



Fort Bend sheriff pushes back against criticism over jail suicides

Nov 30th, 2015 | By
Fort Bend sheriff pushes back against criticism over jail suicides

TJP director Diana Claitor spoke to Houston Chronicle reporter Emily Foxhall about the number of suicides in Fort Bend county’s jail. That jail in fast-growing Fort Bend currently holds 850 to 1,000 inmates on a given day.
“Of those incarcerated in county jails statewide, more than 60 percent have not been convicted yet,” said Claitor, and “if they cannot post bail, they must remain in an atmosphere that can be hostile, depressing and even threatening.” She went on to say that much of the time, people are treated in a generalized way: “They’re all the enemy.” Sheriff Troy Nehls defended his staff and said that the state of Texas had failed by not funding adequate mental health care.



Harris County Jail considered ‘unsafe and unhealthy’ for inmates, public

Nov 25th, 2015 | By
Harris County Jail considered ‘unsafe and unhealthy’ for inmates, public

Ahmed Elsweisy felt nauseated, 24 hours into every diabetic’s worst nightmare. He’d been arrested on a DWI charge and booked into the Harris County Jail early one morning in September without insulin – and nobody seemed to care. Ahmed Elsweisy had successfully managed his diabetes since being diagnosed as a child at age 11. But he almost did not survive his first and only arrest. Here he poses for a portrait during an interview in his attorney’s office Friday, Oct. 23, 2015, in Houston. (Continue/click through to see three excellent videos of Elsweisy and others in this outstanding story from the Houston Chronicle)



The Death Of Victoria Gray: How Texas Jails Are Failing Their Most Vulnerable Captives

Sep 16th, 2015 | By
The Death Of Victoria Gray: How Texas Jails Are Failing Their Most Vulnerable Captives

Just over a year ago, 18-year-old Victoria was found hanging from a bookshelf inside her isolated jail cell. An investigation into her death exposed that jailers, in direct violation of the law, failed to check on her nearly a dozen times and failed to contact a judge for days despite her mental health screening results. In honor of Victoria, Think Progress took a closer look at suicides in Texas jails and found a deadly and systemic pattern of neglect. “A lot of people don’t realize how much damage can be done to individuals in the county jails,” says Texas Jail Project’s Executive Director, Diana Claitor.



Investigate Sandra’s death!

Jul 19th, 2015 | By
Investigate Sandra’s death!

The Austin Chronicle asked TJP’s Executive Director what could prevent further tragedies like the death of Sandra Bland. ‘We need there to be more training of jailers to have the knowledge and temperament to take their role as caretaker very seriously – because the emphasis on security and regimented rules leads to jailers who do not pay attention to the person who may be sick or angry or mentally ill,” says Diana Claitor. “Jailers need to look after the people in their care as if each was a relative instead of viewing them as the enemy. And we need the jail and jailers to be thoroughly investigated each and every time a person dies of suicide or any death inside the jail itself …. Finally, we need independent investigations by someone other than the Texas Rangers, who are not transparent in the least and are extremely connected to the local law enforcement.”



Texas could do this: No more bail for traffic tickets!

Jun 17th, 2015 | By
Texas could do this: No more bail for traffic tickets!

Excellent news from California: for the first time, judges are questioning and stopping the unfair practice of courts demanding bail before drivers are allowed to challenge traffic tickets. The practice had been applied unevenly across California, and just like in Texas, it unfairly affects the poorest among us. In April, legal advocates published a report on the four million Californians who do not have a driver’s license because they either failed to appear or pay up. It’s more than 2 million in Texas! Think about how a change in this practice would mean fewer people in jail, who are also able to drive to their job, stay with their families, and live their lives.



A New Look at Jails and Prisons

May 28th, 2015 | By
A New Look at Jails and Prisons

Check out this short and entertaining animated film about the differences between county jails and prisons. Texas Jail Project finds that because many people, including lawmakers, church leaders, and advocates, don’t understand the distinctly different functions and populations , they fail to ask the right questions or make informed decisions. Thus, writer Maurice Chammah (from Texas) and the Marshall Project created this film to explain how local lockups differ from state and federal facilities.