Our co-founder Diane Wilson was jailed in the Victoria County Jail for 120 days in 2006, and in this clandestine photo, speaks to a visitor about the abuse, neglect and poor conditions she and others were enduring at that time. Her nine-page letter is the first entry on our Inmate Stories. Now, Courthouse News Service reports the horrific details of a new lawsuit against Victoria County Jail which is punishing mentally ill people with the restraints chair and then blocking watchdog group, Texas Disability Rights, from entering the jail. Texas Jail Project salutes this lawsuit and asks Sheriff O’Connor and the Texas Commission on Jail Standards to finally step up, show some accountability, and transform this sick and violent culture.
Posts Tagged ‘ mental illness ’
“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.
County commissioners and law enforcement across Texas often talk a good game about reducing recidivism and diverting people with mental illness. However, at the same time, many officials—and the jailhouse culture—erect barriers to programming that could help inmates while they are incarcerated. Romy Zarate says such programs can turn a life around. “I was probably in the county jail about four times. Without the programming, I was in and out,” says Zarate. “When I was in, I was planning where I would score when I got out; after the programming, I stayed out.”
Having a loved one arrested who has mental health issues is a scary and overwhelming situation. Family members are often forced to become advocates, to ensure their loved ones get the proper mental health screening, medications, and treatment. They can make an important difference in how the person in jail is treated.
Here is list of first steps to take to advocate for your loved one’s safety and health.
If your loved one has a mental health diagnosis and is arrested, it can be helpful to fax a letter to the county jail and request that your loved one be screened for placement in a mental health unit. (Or you can deliver your letter in person to the jail.) Here are instructions for what information
When Brenda Martin recalls how her only child’s life came to an end at the age of 37, she knows there was not one isolated event that caused his early demise. But she’s convinced that although he didn’t die in custody, the 73 days he spent in Caldwell County jail directly contributed to his death.
The new study about Harris County is revealing:
First-time felony offenders who were unable to post bond spent an average of 68 days in jail before having their cases resolved, the study showed. Those who remained jailed for drug possession – a common charge among Harris County jail inmates – were much less likely to win dismissals or deferred prosecutions than those able to afford to bail out, the study showed.
“Regardless of age, ethnicity or color of skin of over 90,000 people annually arrested, what generally determines the defendants’ fate is his or her economic status,” Wheeler argues in the report …
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.
A wife reports serious neglect: “My husband is in the Harris County jail right now and they lowered the dosage of a psych med for PTSD, if they give it to him at all. He also has a severe calcium deficiency and no one bothers to give him the calcium packets anymore after he was moved
I remember a female warden of a Texas county jail telling me how much more difficult–”moody and emotional” –women were and that she’d rather deal with male inmates any day. She might consider this study by the Center for Gender and Justice that shows a huge percentage–75%–of the women in county jails having mental disorders.