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Killer Jails?

Jul 5th, 2011 | Category: Gregg County, Medical care

Do killer jails exist in the great state of Texas today? If so, where?
If you talk to someone who’s been in the Gregg County Jail, they might say that jail is one because they will not help you if you are in withdrawal from either legally prescribed medication or a drug you’re addicted to. Recently, a 33-year-old mother of three and a 30-year-old man have died within six months of each other, begging for help, in acute distress from methadone withdrawal. It now appears that Amy Lynn Cowling and Aaron Garner were the victims of the policy and practice of a Longview doctor in charge of their medical care in combination with the staff’s lack of experience and a dysfunctional “culture.” Cowling’s and Garner’s deaths might have been prevented had they been taken to the emergency room. Instead, jailers falsified records in one case and ignored the desperate pleas in both cases.
In other Texas county jails, you can go in with a commonplace problem like heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma or diabetes and be ignored; in fact, jailers often accuse people of faking their illness or symptoms. Then you have people dying for lack of standard medical treatment. In addition, in some jails, poor screening methods for mental disorders and neglect of mentally ill inmates has been found to increase the number of suicides.
We believe that a survey of the county lockups with the greatest number of these types of deaths will reveal common attitudes, practices and policies. After identifying common factors*, we can publish a report on them that will get media attention and help county and state government understand the absolute necessity of providing proper medical care in Texas county jails.
If you want to help Texas Jail Project with the report on killer jails, please send Kayla Bennett an email: kayla@texasjailproject.org

*One of those common factors is said to be high turnover of jail staff, and that’s why we are so happy to report a bill inspired by the death of Amy Lynn Cowling passed and was signed into law by the governor! SB 1687 requires each jail to report their turnover of their jailers and guards to the Commission on Jail Standards. Jails like Gregg County, where Amy Lynn, died, tend to have high turnover and thus deserve close monitoring.

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