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 ‘ Texas Commission on Jail Standards ’
Each meeting starts at 9 am, and anyone can attend! You can speak during public input, which is at the very beginning, but the commissioners and staffers pay attention but do not respond. They will allow public speakers about 3 minutes. (You can also give them a letter.) Meetings occur in Austin every 3 months,on the first Thursday of that month. Continue for more info about the meetings of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.
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.
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.
Finally! Houston Chronicle reporter James Pinkerton brings attention to an often overlooked subject that is so important to prisoners and their families: visitation at the Baker Street jail. Texas Jail Project has long wanted to shine a light on what one older father called 19th century conditions when he came to visit his son week after week, and couldn’t hear anything he said.
This excerpt is from our interview (see Inmate Stories) of an observant woman held 13 months there: “At Harris County Jail, the visitation rooms do not provide telephones; they have plexiglass windows with holes in them through which inmates and visitors have to shout at one another to be heard. It is extremely stressful to receive a visitor because it is so difficult to hear anything over all the shouting that is going on [around you]. I finally worked out a system with my uncles, who came to see me regularly, to bring paper and pen and we communicated by writing messages to one another, instead of trying to yell through the plexiglass…. Thus, even visitation was an unpleasant and stressful event ….” Despite her loneliness and despair during her long pretrial detention, when she saw how hard visitation was on family members, she told them to stop coming.
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.
People in Montgomery county have reported to us for years that their jail doesn’t provide enough medical personnel or services to those incarcerated there—even when the person needs immediate care! While that’s long been the case, it wasn’t until recently that they got called on it. The official memo states “On February 9, 2015, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office Jail facility was found to be out
Each meeting starts at 9 am, and anyone can attend! You can speak during public input, which is at the very beginning, but the commissioners and staffers will simply listen and will not respond to you at that time. They will allow public speakers about 9 am; limit your remarks to 3 minutes. (You can also give them a letter.) Meetings occur in Austin every 3 months,on the first Thursday of that month. Continue for a link that with more info about meetings of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.
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.
Would you help Texas Jail Project ensure the constitutional rights of prisoners to receive and read publications? A majority of people in 245 local jails are pretrial or awaiting disposition of their cases–not even convicted–and yet in some, they are not allowed to read anything except the Bible. We need volunteers to help us conduct an a survey of jail policy, by phoning the jails. More details available if you email us at firstname.lastname@example.org … Sheriffs and jails forbidding reading material is such a problem that the Texas Commission on Jail Standards posted a letter on their website last fall, saying, “In other words, personal preferences of jail staff should not be a basis for banning a particular publication.” (See http://www.tcjs.state.tx.us/docs/TAMemoPrisonLegalNews.pdf)