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A Look Into the Montgomery County Jail

Jun 1st, 2010 | Category: Montgomery County, Pretrial Detention, Stories

In 2006, Law and Order Magazine recognized the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office as the “best dressed” sheriff’s office in the nation. As Chief Deputy Randy McDaniel says, “We utilize a number of different uniforms here for a variety of duties, so it’s important to have a uniform that is comfortable and functional” (Law and Order, Vol.54, No.10, October 2006). While the sheriff’s office wins awards for their comfortable, functional, and good looking uniforms, inmates at the Montgomery county jail suffer from extreme hot and cold temperatures, lack of medical attention, verbal abuse and unhygienic living conditions.

Kayla Bennett, a volunteer with Texas Jail Project, interviewed Al Miller, an inmate at the Montgomery County Jail for four months.

TXJP: What were your impressions of the jail from the very beginning?

AL: First, I spent eighteen hours in the holding cell. It was very small, very cold. No bunks, just a bench. People were sleeping under the benches……I was in tank C4H. This place was dingy. It was pretty gross. This place could definitely use some taxpayer dollars….

TXJP: Did you ever see anyone with a medical condition that wasn’t being addressed?

AL: There was a gentleman, a young kid. Small, weak-looking guy. Quick, they called him Quick. He was on the phone constantly trying to get his seizure medication. He went a couple of days without it. That first night he had a seizure on the top bunk. He fell off the bunk once, bruised his ankle kicking the bed. Ten minutes later a largely overweight medic comes in and says he’s faking it. Took him away and brought him back, he still didn’t have his meds. He started sleeping on the floor to avoid falling off. No one would trade him a bottom bunk. Deputies yelled at him and told him he had to sleep on the bed.

TXJP: Did you witness any other types of abuse?

Al: Definitely verbal abuse. The way they talk to people is absolutely terrible. If you want to actually do some rehabilitation you don’t treat these guys like this. I only saw a couple instances of physical abuse. I myself was thrown up against the wall by a deputy because I practiced a different religion than the chaplain was willing to help me with. He took me away from the cameras, shoved me against the wall and started talking to me. When you go to court you’re in shackles. You can only take three-inch steps, and if you fall, they just laugh.

TXJP: Was the jail clean?
AL: It was kind of putrid actually. The sink was stopped up for almost two months. They never would come in. We filed grievances, sent request forms. They expect you to wash your clothes in that nasty sink. It says in their own handbook that there are laundry services available, but they expect you to wash everything there. People washed their hair in the sink, shaved, cleaned dishes. It was very nasty. One of the showers didn’t work at all. One shower would clog up all the time. You’d be standing in a puddle of nasty water. One of the grossest things I ever saw was Detox A- they would hold you there when you were drunk or if you were going to court in the morning. There was blood on the walls. I saw the same blood stains the first and last time I was in there. You have no idea if someone has AIDS or hepatitis. There’s vomit and urine all over. Truly a decrepit place. I wrote the sheriff himself.

TXJP: Did he respond?

AL: Of course not. Ninety percent of request forms they laugh at and throw away. They cut corners in unbelievable ways. You get one plastic spoon. No way to wash it, no way to sanitize it.

TXJP: Did you ever see any signs of obvious contagious diseases?

AL: They would bring bleeding people in all the time. After a wreck, if they were DUI. They never went to the hospital. I knew it would be bad. No one wants to go to jail. But I had no idea this is the way they really treat people. You never leave the tank. You get rec, but they call it whenever everyone’s deeply asleep, like at 6:30am, so no one goes. You have no time to get out of the bunk. They call it once and say “no one? OK.”

TXJP: What is rec like?

AL: You walk around in a concrete room with sun coming in. No one hardly ever goes because they’re asleep. They don’t want to have to watch people. They’re the laziest people. If there are any jails worse than this they need to be shut down immediately. Visitation is a crock too. In the regular areas they have nine booths, two don’t work. But they still put nine people in there. So two people can’t talk to their visitor. When you tell the staff they just laugh. The room where people wait is hot. There’s no AC, no fans. People almost passing out. My mom told me that a pregnant woman almost passed out one day waiting there. They treat the families of the people that are visiting like criminals too. The visitation room is hot, and when you’re in jail you’re freezing. I just talked to a girl who wears two pairs of socks, two thermals.

TXJP: When people are released, how does it happen?

AL: If you go to court and your release date is that day, people come back and sometimes aren’t out until the next day. Most of time they keep you right up until midnight. They get a certain amount of money from the state for every inmate they house. 11:54pm, 11:45pm, right before midnight.

TXJP: Do you have anything else you’d like to say about your experience in Montgomery County?

AL: I met some interesting people in there, not all of them are bad. A new spoon everyday for the inmates wouldn’t kill their budget. And I say to them: Follow your own rules.
If they followed their own rules that they’ve published, that would be great. That’s about it.

Diana Claitor comments:
While some people persist in thinking these poor conditions are supposed to be part of the punishment for an inmate, that is just the opposite of what a jail is charged with. The law requires a clean, safe environment managed by professionals. Let’s start speaking out and make sure that county officials hear our complaints when the county jail is poorly run.

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Anonymous

What was just said in the interview above is the same thing my husband told me. Dogs are treated better than that!

Anonymous

I pray that no one who has to take Doctor prescribed medication, has to experience Montgomery County Jail Hell. Trust me they will lie to you and tell you the will give you your medication, but the will NOT! When you have a seizure or get deathly ill, they will just laugh at you and accuse you of faking your illness!

Anonymous

I just got out of Montgomery county jail and the conditions there in the tanks is appalling!!! They have an outbreak of Staph, T.B. and rashes! The tanks are infested with gnats,the showers have rust and worn paint in them, and they don’t delouse anybody that they arrest but they blame the outbreaks on the inmates not cleaning! Newsflash: if you don’t bathe a flea bittin dog and have it around your other dogs guess what the other dogs get fleas too. The mats they are given to sleep on are hard, uncomfortable, And cause bruises on inmates hips, backs… Read more »

Cindy

All of this is very appalling to me. While jail shouldn’t be made so comfortable that inmates want to stay, it definitely should not reach the disgusting, unsanitary, inhumane proportions I just read about. This is unlawful and something should be done about it. I have a pregnant daughter in Montgomery County jail and she has major medical issues. After reading this I am petrified for her life and for her unborn baby’s life. What can I do, if anything, to get her the medical attention she needs without causing more problems for her? What can “I” do to make… Read more »

Pop

Upwards of 80% of the inmates at the Montgomery County Jail have not been convicted of anything. They set a bail they know you can’t meet just to keep you locked up, not one that is related to the offense or your likelihood of flight.