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People from Six Counties Tell Their Stories of Dangerous Releases

Mar 25th, 2011 | Category: Cameron County, Dallas County, Guadalupe County, Harris County, Montgomery County, Val Verde County

We provided this background report for legislators and church groups in 2009.

Inmates of Texas county jails are sometimes released late at night without their property or a working phone or access to any transportation—in total darkness. In some documented cases, people had no experience with the area and no idea of their physical location, and in some instances, weather conditions were severe and the individuals lacked shoes or jackets. County jail property rooms are often only open during regular business hours, thus leaving people with no way to obtain their belongings at night.

Women have been released in the middle of the night, alongside men, on isolated county roads and in urban areas, like Houston and Dallas. This creates an opportunity for them to be victimized by pimps or human traffickers, who prey around these types of facilities. In other cases, the released person suffered from a mental condition that added to the difficulties encountered during a nighttime release.

These situations make the time of release from a county jail very important to a person’s safety. Thus, releases from county jails should be prohibited between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. except in certain exigent circumstances.

Cameron County
In 2010, a 27-year-old woman was killed in traffic at night outside Brownsville shortly after being released from a rural jail at Olmito, more than a mile from the freeway. Priscilla Falduto had been arrested for swimming nude in a fountain. She was struck by an SUV and died about 10 p.m. along FM 511 near the intersection with Old Alice Road, according to a Brownsville police department spokesman.
Two years prior to that, another Brownsville woman, Danetta Gillam, was killed in almost the identical fashion. The public outcry after these deaths has not brought about any changes in release policy.

Dallas County
A father recently reported on the terrifying release of his daughter, a recent detainee in Dallas County Jail. “You do not put a young girl out on the street at those hours with no security at all,” said Ed Webb. “Jennifer was released out in the wee hours, and they put her out with no shoes in that area filled with [threatening pimps and prostitutes]. And she called and left a voice message on my phone, scared to death. My phone was turned off, and I was asleep, thinking she was safe inside the jail.”

Guadalupe County
Jim Nelson, treasurer of Texas Inmates Families Association, also coordinates Prison Fellowship Ministries Angel Tree for nine counties and has served on a number of boards related to reentry; he also mentors a number of ex-offenders. Nelson drove to the Guadalupe County Jail in Seguin, February 23, 2010. A young acquaintance of the Nelson family had requested Nelson to come to his court hearing at 8 a.m.
“Craig was ushered out of the court room at 12 noon and returned to the Guadalupe County Jail. I went to the jail and was told that it would be at least six hours before he would be released. I waited for several hours, but there was sleet in Seguin and I was concerned about the weather in Austin and I decided to leave for home. Craig was released at 8:30 p.m. in a T-shirt with the temperature below freezing. He was not allowed to stay in the building and had to walk along the frontage road of I-10 to a convenience store. Craig was not from the area and wasn’t even sure where he was. I am not sure of the distance, but it was a long walk in the dark.”
A stranger finally gave Craig a ride and then he was able to call his ex-boss and request that he come out to pick him up near San Antonio. Nelson said that he has run into similar incidents around the Central Texas area, including one this past December in which Williamson County Jail released a man with no shoes at night.

Harris County
• A mother reports her daughter NG was released from the downtown Harris County Jail at 1:30 a.m., Friday, January 21, 2010. (They request their names not be used so as to not jeopardize the daughter’s and mother’s jobs.)
“Her dad and I were waiting at 9 p.m. but were told by officers that processing could take around 8 hours so we had gone back home and had planned on returning around 4-5 a.m.” says the mother. “NG had no cell phone and there weren’t any pay phones in the exit holding tank.
“Do you know what it’s like around there? It’s a place where vagrants and homeless and all kinds just hang out. They released men first and then women, so some of the male inmates were still there on the street. I wonder if women have been raped at that point.
“Basically, NG said that when the women are let onto the street they are mobbed by men who rush them and offer them rides, the use of a cell phone or try to sell them cigarettes. She said there is absolutely no authority figure in the vicinity to intercede for you. Five or six big men who were intimidating and scary mobbed her. They tried to pressure her to accept their offers.
“A girl she met in the holding tank happened to have a cell phone (with barely any charge left), and that girl let NG call for help. She and the girl walked 7 blocks in the dark empty streets and sat by a vacant bank to wait for their ride. It was the only way to get away from the mob.”
NG spoke to a woman named Carey who related a similar story: Ms. Carey was pulled at 10 p.m. and released at 3 a.m. The mob of men rushed her and had her cornered, offering her cigarettes, phone, ride, etc until her husband came and had to push his way through them to grab her and pull her to safety.
NG’s mom says it frightens her to think of what NG would have had to do if not for the girl who had a cell.
“Absolutely nothing was done to insure their safety,” she says.
• Diane Wilson, author, environmental spokeswoman and co-founder of the Texas Jail Project, reported on a 1 a.m. release from Harris County Jail, Wednesday, June 25, 2009.
“They released me without my purse, laptop and the money that I had when I was arrested [for a demonstration against a petrochemical company]. I was released with another woman of about 30, arrested because of domestic violence at home, and she was barefoot and wearing a nightgown. She also had no phone and no money. We hadn’t talked while in jail together, but now we were suddenly in the same boat. I at least had shoes.
“The area outside the Houston jail was badly lit, and there was a huge warehouse and a high sidewalk across the road from the warehouse and a series of closed stores. There were men hanging around the sidewalk, and they came up and started talking with her. That’s when the girl walked over to me and said, ‘Can I stay by you?’ Neither one of us knew what to do. We walked to a spot where there was a light and stood there for hours. Nobody knew we were there.”

Montgomery County
Deborah Partin of Conroe relates an incident from January, 2011: “I am a 57-year- old woman who was taken from my home in the middle of the night, in my sleeping clothes and barefoot and the temperature was in the 30’s. Then, when I was released, it was dark and cold, I was in my sleeping clothes with no shoes, no money and 30 miles from home.”
Ms. Partin said it appeared that the paperwork was seldom completed before evening and thus releases were usually late. Al Miller, another Montgomery County resident who was briefly an inmate in that jail, corroborated her statement, saying that he saw and heard of many releases at night.

Val Verde County
A traumatized 42-year-old Austin resident called Texas Jail Project in 2009 and requested that we not use his name. This articulate man reported that in late 2009, he went off his meds and drove to an unfamiliar part of West Texas. When he awoke in the Val Verde County Correctional Facility and County Jail, he found himself injured and threatened by his cellmate. Upon release about midnight, he was told to get out; he had none of his possessions and didn’t know where his car was. He didn’t know where the town was and so began to simply walk up and down the county road, hoping someone would help him. After a couple of hours, a Val Verde County deputy took pity on him and picked him and drove him to the La Quinta in Del Rio. He said that being left out there on a deserted road was a very frightening experience.

Contact: Diana Claitor, TJP director
info@texasjailproject.org or (512) 597-8746

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melanie

I can attest to these comments and more. Back in 2001 I was arrested around 10pm at my home in my night clothes. My then 16 year old daughter got angry with me when I told her to get off of the telephone and go to bed. Rather than comply, my daughter then assaulted me. The phone was still on and her boyfriend called the police. When they showed up, they would not listen to what I told them and arrested me for domestic violence. I bonded out around 6am (still in my nightclothes and barefoot) and had to walk… Read more »

Jean

I totally agree with you and am trying to figure out how to get this terrible information out to the public. The jail system is really deplorable and something needs to be done.

Marie

My significant other of 8 years now, was jailed in Harris County in 2011, for 30 days. The judge ruled his release 2 days before actual release occurred. He was only allowed to contact someone a few hours before released happened earlier. It was approximately 4 p.m. when he called his dad (the only person available at the time ). “D” , my fiance (I.consider him my husband ) knew it would take awhile, but a jailer insisted that he tell whomever was picking him up.,be there at 8 p.m., otherwise “D” would be detained for an additional week. Huh????… Read more »

Suzy Cue

The jailers are rude as hell to the public and probably to the inmates. Our system sucks from Federal to County. They are all rude from check-in to check out. Some people have never been to jail and really don’t know what to expect. No one at the jail, that works for the jail, is helpful.

Laura and Rickey Gann

Montgomery County – This inmate had dementia & was released from Montgomery County Jail in the middle of the night. Story below. The remains were identified as Mr Carey who had been missing since his release in May 2009. Diana, Daisey Bail Bonds is the one that was directly across the street from the jail, next to the one that was closed. He laid there from May 2009 until Aug 28 2012. Posted: Tuesday, August 28, 2012 4:37 pm | Updated: 6:39 pm, Tue Aug 28, 2012. By Jonathan Garris The employee of a bail bonds business near the Montgomery… Read more »

Brenda

They are very rude in Guadalupe County, as a visitor of a dear friend. Just trying to get his property so that I can get in touch with his family, as well as get his money to him. He was transferred from Hays County to Guadalupe because Hays is over filled.Hays is NO Barrel of fun EITHER; its taken two weeks AND two calls to the supervisor to finally get help with this matter!!! When he was transferred Hays is keeping his property since he SHOULD be returning there, although HAYS COUNTY are the ones who sent him with out… Read more »

roxan goodwin

I went to pick my daughter up from jail in downtown Houston. I was there at 10:00 pm. I waited in my truck and was harassed by homeless men. My daughter was released at 1:00 am, she had on a sundress and flip flops, her cell phone was dead. Had I not been there to get her I shudder to think what would have happened. The three hours I was there, I never saw a police officer. The area is dark, scarey, and many homeless men hanging around.