Links to resources, grievances, and other useful websites
INFORMATION ABOUT COUNTY JAILS & INMATES (updated by volunteer Kayla Bennett)
- Texas Commission on Jail Standards (info on meetings, standards, local jails)
- VINELink (vinelink.com): the online version of VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday). You can obtain timely and reliable information about criminal cases and the custody status of offenders 24 hours a day. Includes a comprehensive list of internet links and toll-free numbers for victim services and resources in all 50 states.
- Google the name of the county jail you are interested in. For example, google Denton County Jail to find a link to information on inmates, visitation rules, and more. Some jails list a lot of information and others very little.
COUNTY JAIL GRIEVANCES AND INMATE RIGHTS
- Texas Commission on Jail Standards – You can send in your complaint by filling out the online form, writing a letter, or faxing a short description. They prefer something in writing, not a call. The fastest way to get a response is to fill out their online complaint form. Click here> Online Complaints.
The Jail Commission is supposed to oversee conditions in the jail and will not address criminal matters like rape or assault. They will tell you to report that to the Texas Rangers or the FBI.
If you don’t get a response from the Jail Commission, or it’s an urgent emergency, call: 512 463-5505 and ask for assistance. But it is better to email or write first. They have a small staff and the entire state to deal with. They often will check with the jail and then report back to you. (Please let Texas Jail Project know if they don’t respond to your complaint!)
Att: Director Brandon Wood
P.O. Box 12985
Austin, TX 78711-2985
- Texas Civil Rights Project: Self-Help Resources -The Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) promotes racial, social, and economic justice, and their Prisoners’ Rights Program works to improve conditions in Texas prisons and jails through litigation and advocacy. They take on very few cases in terms of lawsuits, but it’s worth trying. Go to the website to find when and who to call in your region:
Texas Civil Rights Project has the most complete information about grievances. Go to their Prisoners Rights webpage, and scroll down to the section entitled “Self Help – Grievance Process.” and then scroll down to the section “For Inmates in County Jails.” It says
For inmates in county jails: Every county jail in Texas has different grievance procedures. Knowing the procedures is important because an inmate cannot file a lawsuit challenging jail conditions without first filing grievances. Through open records requests, TCRP has obtained grievance policies and procedures for various county jails around the state. We are making the policies available on this website. We have also re-written the policies into easy-to-read step-by-step instructions.
Their step-by-step instructions on how to file grievances are available online on that same page and also at LawHelp.com
Problems with your attorney? The State Bar’s Client/Attorney Assistance Program may be able to help. Their mission is to help mediate disputes between attorneys and clients. Go to the State Bar Website for information and forms, to complain or to report an attorney in the section called FOR THE PUBLIC.
COURTS OF TEXAS
This chart shows all the different courts and their places in the system: Structure of Texas Courts
OTHER GROUPS THAT INVESTIGATE OR PROVIDE ADVICE ABOUT COUNTY JAILS
- ACLU of Texas – They used to have a Prison and Jail Accountability Project, and they are not investigating or suing on behalf of prisoners in the state of Texas any more as of 2014. Matt Simpson, ACLU policy strategist, does still monitor and evaluate the standards for county jails, and he frequently brings issues to the attention of the the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.
- Disability Rights Texas – works to protect and advance the civil rights of people with disabilities–a caegory that includes people with mental disorders as well as physical problems and disabilities. They can help when rights have been violated and they seek to ensure that people with disabilities have access to information about their rights. Every individual is guaranteed certain rights under the United States Constitution, the Texas Constitution and other laws. Some of these rights include:
- The right to reasonably safe conditions of confinement, including access to adequate medical care and rehabilitation services
- The right to refuse medication and unwanted medical treatment
Read their contact page to find out numbers and times to call them.
- Texas Appleseed – Texas Appleseed’s mission is to promote social and economic justice for all Texans by leveraging the skills and resources of volunteer lawyers and other professionals to identify practical solutions to difficult systemic problems. While it focuses on many worthwhile reforms, Texas Appleseed intersects with needs of jail inmates by providing for high quality legal representation of persons with mental illness or mental retardation — providing resources for judges and attorneys, handbooks for these defendants and their families, and support for communities to create mental health public defender offices.
- Texas Civil Rights Project – 1405 Montopolis Drive, Austin, TX 78741 OFFICE: 512-474-5073 ext. 105 (To see if they can help you with a case, you have to call on a Thursday, 2 to 4 p.m., for initial conversation and screening; they have limited staff.)
YOU CAN SUE A COUNTY JAIL, BUT IT’S NOT EASY (source is the Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog)
Make sure, first of all, that you have a lawyer who knows exactly what it takes. Not all lawyers know, and you will need one that is experienced in this type of case. They can then file a 1983 lawsuit. What is that?
1983 lawsuits are federal suits based upon constitutional violations. 1983 lawsuits can be an effective way to pierce the veil of sovereign immunity state and local governments so often grant themselves.
For county inmates there are two main causes of action.
Constitutional challenges by pretrial detainees may be brought under two alternative theories: as an attack on a “condition of confinement” or as an “episodic act or omission.” Hare v. City of Corinth, Miss., 74 F.3d 633, 644–45 (5th Cir. 1996) (en banc). If the plaintiff has properly stated a claim as an attack on conditions of confinement, he is relieved from the burden of demonstrating a municipal entity’s or individual jail official’s actual intent to punish because, as discussed below, intent may be inferred from the decision to expose a detainee to an unconstitutional condition.
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ADVOCACY ORGANIZATIONS FOR PRISONERS IN STATE PRISONS AND STATE JAILS
Texas Inmate Families Association P.O. Box 300220 Austin, TX 78703-0004 Phone: (512) 371-0900
P.O. Box 301587
Austin, TX 78708-0027
This group works on several different areas from the Juvenile Justice Initiative to the Fair Defense Project
and three more, so please check out their website for more info.
Texas CURE started and runs the fan project providing fans to indigent inmates; Joan Covici and Michael Jewell, formerly with Con-Care, now run CURE and try to answer individual questions about prison issues.
Phone: (214) 348-0293 (Joan or Michael) or (214) 893-0784 (ask for Joan) or (214) 460-5713 (ask for Michael) Email: Jccovici@earthlink.net
P.O. Box 38381
Dallas, Texas 75238-0381
GROUPS HELPING INMATES THROUGH BOOKS AND PUBLICATIONS
- Inside Books Project – Creative grassroots group in Austin that has been “Sending Free Books to Texas Prisoners since 1998!” They do it all with volunteers and donated books and donated bucks for mailing costs—and volunteers write and include a personal note with each book. Give Inside Books some support or come to a work session on East MLK.
- Prison Legal News – Prison Legal News is an independent 56-page monthly magazine that provides a cutting edge review and analysis of prisoner rights, court rulings and news about prison issues. PLN has a national (U.S.) focus on both state and federal prison issues, with international coverage as well. PLN provides information that enables prisoners and other concerned individuals and organizations to seek the protection and enforcement of prisoner’s rights at the grass roots level. Started by a former inmate, PLN regularly challenges and sues the Texas jails that try to block inmates from receiving information or publications!
SUMMER CAMPS FOR CHILDREN OF THE INCARCERATED
- Camp Allen – Camp Good News, Navasota Texas, 936-825-7175
The camp is set in the Piney Woods of east Texas and is open to children between the ages of 10 and 15. Check with Camp Good News for dates in the coming year. There is no cost to the parent or caregiver, however, participation is limited to 60 children who are accepted on a first come, first served basis. Camp Good News is held at beautiful Camp Allen (near Navasota) which is owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.
For more information write or call:
Ed Davis, Coordinator
Huntsville, TX 77342
or contact Restorative Justice Ministries at 936-291-3153
Visit www.campallen.org for more information on the camp
- Promise Camp, Amarillo Texas
Promise Camp is located on the Bishop Quarterman Ranch and is open to children entering 4th, 5th, and 6th grades.
Promise Camp is tuition free to all campers. Transportation to and from camp is provided to children living in and around
the cities of Amarillo, Lubbock, Abilene, Midland-Odessa, and San Angelo.
For more information chec out: Promises for Families
Email or call: Katy Hoskins, Katy@promisecamp.org or 325-235-715
FAITH BASED PROJECTS HELPING INMATES
- Angela House in Houston – Angela House is a residential facility for women exiting the criminal justice system that was established in July 2001. A maximum of sixteen women, without regard to race or religion, reside at Angela House where their basic needs are met. The women also participate in a program structured to assist them in selecting viable options that will help them to lead productive and meaningful lives in the future. As women enter Angela House, they are asked to make a minimum four (4) month committment to the program. It is run by the remarkable Sister Maureen O’Connell.
- Restorative Justice Network – A network of individuals and organizations that collaborate in creating and implementing Biblical solutions to the problems and challenges of those working with inmates and the criminal justice system.
- Truth Be Told – A non-profit service organization providing transformational tools for women behind and beyond bars. Programs provide respectful listening and creative tools for personal and spiritual growth for incarcerated women. These folks know what they are doing; volunteers needed from the Gatesville area.
- Bridge to Life – A faith-based nonprofit corporation founded in 1998, with a primary mission to reduce crime by reducing the recidivism rate of released inmates. By participating in face-to-face sessions inside the prison, both victims and offenders participate in a restorative justice process.
Contact the STATE REPRESENTATIVE and/or SENATOR for your district and tell them about problems and situations with your jail or the jail administration.
To find out who represents your area, go to this website: Who Represents Me? All you have to do is type in your address and zip code to find out who your elected representative is and how to contact them:
Two state agencies with oversight over the jails:
Texas Commission on Jail Standards
Mr. Brandon Wood, Executive Director
P.O. Box 12985
Austin, TX 78711-2985
Texas Correctional Office on Offenders with Medical or Mental Impairments (TCOOMMI) A special state agency that studies the treatment or lack of treatment of county jail inmates and that oversees continuity of care. They are especially helpful when an inmate is not receiving treatment for mental illness. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- New Department: National Resource Center on Justice Involved Women
- U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division
Wan J. Kim, Asst. Attorney General
950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20530
- U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division
David Deutsch, Esq.
950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Office of the Asst. Attorney General, Main
Washington, DC 20530
(Mr. Deutsch said he is the Sr. Trial Atty. responsible for the DOJ investigation of the DCJ.)
- United States Attorney, Northern District of Texas
The Honorable Richard B. Roper
Earle Cabell Federal Bldg.
1100 Commerce St., Ste. 300
Dallas, TX 75242-1699
Other Advocacy Groups Working to Improve Conditions and Communication
- Disability Rights –Advocates for, protects and advances the legal, human and service rights of people with disabilities. They will intervene on behalf of prisoners.
- Grassroots Leadership –Focused on fighting privitization of prisons and jails; supports activists, organizations, and communities.
Read these blogs
- Grits for Breakfast – A must read! Looks at the Texas Criminal Justice System, summarizes and discusses news articles from around the state relating to criminal justice issues
- Stir Crazy in Texas – Focused on mental illness and the Texas criminal justice system.
- Liberty and Justice For Y’all – This blog is a resource on current issues involving criminal law and procedure in Texas.
- Texas Prison Bidness – Posts information about the growing prison-for-profit industry in Texas and shares information about the true costs of private prisons to individuals, families and communities in Texas and across the country.