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Houston Radio Interview: Inmates Die in County Jails

Nov 17th, 2010 | Category: McLennan County

By John Labus, 740 KTRH, Wednesday, November 17, 2010

     A recent analysis suggests the number of illness-related deaths in county jails in Texas is close to the number of deaths in state prisons. Brandon Wood, an assistant director with the Texas Commission on Jail Standards says jail populations are more transient, bringing more health risks into the facility from outside.

“They may be intravenous drug users, heavy smokers… all of those factors come in to play and that can contribute to the number of deaths in custody that we’ve experienced at Texas county jails… I’m not sure if we’ll ever be able to change lifestyle choices that individuals make before they’re ever incarcerated that do impact the possibility that they will die in custody.”

Diana Claitor, director of the Texas Jail Project says there’s insufficient funding for medical care, and many of the guards don’t have enough training. “Many do have an attitude that when an inmate says they’re sick, they’re faking. That leads to a lot of much worse conditions and deaths.”

Claitor says jail inmates are different from felons in prison. “I think the county jail inmate is more like you and me; if I’ve got high blood pressure and I get a DUI, and I’m not getting my medicine… those people are more like the general population. They don’t get their medication, they start going downhill; they deteriorate.”

She says we need to find ways to ease the congestion. “What would really help is less incarceration of people who are non-violent and can be handled in other ways.”

Claitor says money for medical care in jails will only decrease, so we need more creative solutions.

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