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Making Jails Safer: TJP at the 86th Session!

Lead Article

Making Jails Safer: TJP at the 86th Session!

With our small staff at Texas Jail Project, it’s not easy, but we are working hard to support several house bills for the current 86th legislative session—on subjects ranging from care of pregnant women to training of correctional officers to the oversight of the Texas Jail Commission! Rep. Celia Israel filed HB 1601, Rep. James White filed HB 1553, and Rep. Mary González filed HB 1651.
Now ANNIE’S LIST has tweeted a big national shout out to Rep. González: @RepMaryGonzalez’s HB 1651 would require the Commission on Jail Standards to adopt reasonable rules and procedures re: the use of restraints on pregnant prisoners. #txlege
Read on for more bills that will affect the treatment of the 1,000,000 people booked into county jails each year in Texas. (Photo is of Rep. Mary González)

Featured Articles

Jail Commission Will Meet Thursday May 2 Jail Commission Will Meet Thursday May 2

Each meeting starts at 9 am sharp, and all can attend! But if you want to make some comments during public input, allow time to find a parking place and the room, to put down your name and be ready to talk by 9:05. Meetings may run from 1 hour to 3 hours. RIGHT NOW, THE MAY 2ND MEETING IS SCHEDULED AT Stephen F. Austin Building, 1700 Congress Ave., 1st Floor, Room 170. DURING THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION, LOCATIONS CAN CHANGE AT THE LAST MINUTE TO ANOTHER BUILDING SO CHECK THEIR WEBSITE. Continue to see link to their website.

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. 

Jail Reads Sends Books Jail Reads Sends Books

County jails are not required to have a library like state prisons are. And a lot of small to medium sized jails don’t have any books and only allow ones ordered from publishers or Amazon. So If your family can’t afford to buy them for you, you may go months with nothing to read or learn. Or you may only find tattered romance novels like our founder Diane Wilson found in the Victoria County Jail. So Jail Reads helps bring words and hope into the jails!

Habeas Corpus

If your loved one was found incompetent to stand trial … 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 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.

Families Speak Out

“Without you guys, I’d have been totally lost!” “Without you guys, I’d have been totally lost!”

March 2018: “When my relative was in the county jail (Central Texas), without you guys I’d have been totally lost! Diana wrote me many emails and she even called the jail administrator to find out why I wasn’t being allowed to visit my loved one who was very sick while in that jail for months. Also Texas Jail Project has an awesome board member named Maria Anna Esparza who talked to me about her experiences with a loved one held for years in a county jail and with mental hospitals—sometimes we still talk and keep up with each other. Diana spent several weeks helping me convince my attorney to file a writ of habeas corpus to get my son out of that jail. In about a week, that got my loved one transferred to a hospital.”