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Lead Article

We Support Small Bills That Make a Difference!

By Diana Claitor, Executive Director (Austin American Statesman, July 7, 2019)
Gov. Abbott signed HB 1651 last month. It’s a small bill that won’t make headlines, but it will have a large effect on the health of more than 4,000 pregnant women incarcerated in Texas county jails each year. Not to mention the health of their unborn offspring. 

Texas Jail Project, an Austin nonprofit that works to improve conditions in Texas’ 241 county jails, presented information and stories to legislators during the session. About veterans needing mental health care, jailer training, PR bonds, and collection of demographic data on inmates. However, much of our work focused on the unique vulnerability of pregnant inmates.

Featured Articles

Why is it important to differentiate between county jails & prisons?

You’re watching the news, and the reporter solemnly states, “William Larcenous will be spending the rest of his life in jail.” Or describes Mary Doe languishing in prison waiting for trial.

That’s not going to happen! Why?

 “Jails” and “prisons” are not the same thing. We use the terms interchangeably—and incorrectly. JAILS are run locally and most of the people held there are NOT yet convicted. The length of time people stay in jails varies from 1 day to many months. PRISONS confine people who are convicted and sentenced to a certain amount of time, usually at least a year.*

Using the word “jail” correctly is especially important for public awarenessof of the large percentage of people being held pretrial—not yet convicted—in their local jails. 

Chaplain Describes Jails’ Treatment of Families

Deacon Bob spoke truth to the Commissioners and staff at the quarterly meeting of the Jail Commission. One of his important points: “It appears that the sheriff and local staff have little concern for families of those incarcerated and the important role they play. These sheriffs seem to forget they are elected by those in their community, who may have a loved one in their jail. I hear it said many times by families that feel like they are being treated as though they have committed a crime, as well. I realize that public safety is top priority for the county jails, but families can and should be treated with respect. Each of us were created in God’s image and likeness.”

Maria Anna invites you to Jailhouse Stories

Maria Ana speaks about her son’s experience of being held pretrial in a Texas county jail for 3 years and asks others to tell their stories.

Families Speak Out

Clinton Harrington MEMORIES OF CLINTON HARRINGTON

My son, Clinton Joseph Harrington, was born on July 24, 1986. He died on October 18, 2018 while in pre-trial custody in the Victoria County Jail. Information from the Medical Examiner and Texas Rangers raises serious concerns about the conditions of Clinton’s confinement and the circumstances leading up to his death. We have chosen not to comment on the details of that information at this time. Clinton was 32 years old at the time of his death.

In The News

Smith County Jail exterior Smith County Jail population continues upward trend, surpasses 900 in July

“All we can do is incarcerate the people brought into us,” Smith said. “And the court system, they have to work through the court system. It could be anything from, they’re not able to make bond, or it could be they’re repeat offenders so they’re not eligible for bond.”

Habeas Corpus

If your loved one was found incompetent to stand trial …

There is a legal filing to make sure a person found incompetent is hospitalized or removed from the jail. If your loved one has been found incompetent to stand trial due to mental disability but has continued to be held in jail without treatment, the person’s lawyer can file a Writ of Habeas Corpus with the court that requires the county to provide him/her with appropriate medical care—in other words, send them to a hospital. Once the court grants the Writ, the Sheriff must comply. Go to next page for the Writ, which you can download.

Pretrial Detention

Voices of Pretrial Detention in Texas

“Sharing my story might not make it more safe for myself, but I would like to make it safe for someone else.” says John Brown, who was jailed at Dallas County Jail for two and a half years while awaiting trial. His and other stories reveal what happens to unconvicted people held in jails, mostly because they cannot afford the bail—a practice outlawed in many developed nations.
Last year, Texas Jail Project launched a website, “Jailhouse Stories: Voices from Pretrial Detention in Texas.” 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.