In 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice did did a huge national study, ranking more than 350 jails by the rate of sexual abuse reported by prisoners. Houston’s Harris County Jail came in third. To make matters worse, many of those raped while held in our Texas county jails are unconvicted—pretrial detainees—who make up more than 60% of
Legal Issues & Jails
“The issue of trust has long been part of the larger discussion about the quality of indigent defense in the United States.” There’s an understatment. Texas Jail Project is certainly aware of the “issue of trust,” since hundreds of people have complained to us over the past seven years about the lack of quality work by court appointed attorneys.
“Now, Comal County in Central Texas will be the first in the country to let these individuals choose their attorneys at government expense.It’s part of a pilot program in Comal County that could determine whether the idea is adopted in other jurisdictions and provide a new way for how the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments are exercised.
Under the system, a defendant who is declared indigent will be given a list of 30 to 50 attorneys approved by the county. An individual will have a day to make a choice.”
It’s about time. Thanks to the Texas Indigent Defense Commission.
Prosecutors often describe the cases they work on as being divided into four simple categories:
• good people doing something stupid;
• bad people doing something stupid;
• good people doing something bad; and
• bad people doing something bad.
A sheriff’s department in Texas recorded what should have been private phone calls between lawyers and inmates, and provided prosecutors with copies of the conversations, a federal lawsuit alleges.
Such a breach would violate the attorney-client legal privilege and may have hindered the ability of lawyers to defend their clients in court.
Read this and see if you can find any place where it makes any mention of the detainees as human beings. There is a bit about how it will be a problem for attorneys trying to represent them, but that’s it. Why isn’t there something about the impact on the people involved and their families?
“A deal to send McLennan County inmates to Polk County to make room for more federal detainees in a Waco jail is drawing criticism from a top Polk County official who says his jail has plenty of room for the federal detainees. Some Waco attorneys also are questioning the deal, saying having their clients housed 175 miles away in Livingston would create logistical problems.
McLennan County Judge Scott Felton said officials are working out kinks in the plan. It would take effect only if the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s San Antonio district decides to send more detainees to Waco, which he said would benefit the county financially.”
They are working out the kinks, to make sure that the deal makes more money for the county. This is what we have become, folks.
“Given that combat veterans’ PTSD issues often manifest in aggressive behavior, it flies in the face of reason not to take violent cases,” said Isabel Apkarian, a former assistant public defender in Orange County. “I don’t know how you have a veterans court without taking those clients.”
So Instead of spending two years in jail, a Marine in an Orange County court gets sentenced to therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder, to counseling for substance abuse and then, to college–special treatment that he would not get in many Texas counties which do not have veterans courts for felons. Or any veterans court at all. Texas Jail Project knows of veterans sitting in jail cells across this state, because their counties don’t ensure timely trials and treatment, let alone create a veterans court. Read here about a different way to help combat veterans charged with criminal acts.
This Citizen’s Guide is full of answers to questions you may have about criminal charges–there is a box showing the kinds of misdemeanors and felonies–plus vicitims’ rights and much more. Thanks to the State Bar of Texas for providing this free of charge! Continue to the main story to get a link to download the whole booklet.
In many jails, administrators do whatever they want, like record privileged discussions between inmate and attorney. Here is an important story about that from Harvey Rice in the Houston Chronicle:
“Most jails in Texas indiscriminately record conversations, Davis said. He said the sheriff of Matagorda County, where he is representing a client, has “hours and hours” of recordings of their conversations.”
Texas Jail Project has heard from family members with inmates in the Galveston jail who are unable to receive books ordered from publishers – even in one case, a Bible. Worst case scenario was a wonderful young woman named Ana facing childbirth for the first time, alone and without comfort or advice as her mother was living and working in Europe. Ana’s mother ordered a book shipped to help Ana understand some of the physical changes, pain and problems she was having, but the jail would not allow her to have it!
So it’s very satisfying to see that a lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court against Galveston County, Sheriff Freddie Poor, former Sheriff Gean Leonard and a Sheriff’s lieutenant. The suit alleges unconstitutional censorship at the county jail in violation of the First Amendment. Read about it here. . . .
This Texas Tribune story was about a bill that will require jails to report the turnover of their staff…so that jails with high turnover of guards and jailers, like Gregg County, where Amy Lynn Cowling died this past Christmas, will be more closely monitored. Jails like this are more likely to have escapes, sexual trafficking