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A Mother’s Report on Harris County Jail

May 16th, 2013 | By | Category: Families Speak Out, Harris County

Harris_County_Jail__61-150x150 My son is currently in the Harris County Jail (HCJ).  I want the public to realize and    understand how dangerous it is for any inmate to be there. One of the doctors and several guards refused to give my son medical treatment (yes…it happens a lot and it happened to my child).

Punishment for crime is being sent to jail. In jail, the inmates get hard cots, disgusting and scarcely enough food and water, boredom, loss of freedom, extreme temperatures, no privacy and so much more! But the staff is supposed to enforce the rules. Here in this jail, most staff members are sadistic and hateful to the inmates and punish the inmates by abusing and neglecting them.  My son has received his sentence, and he will serve his time as he should but guards and the doctors at HCJ do not have the right to “give my son the death penalty” due to medical neglect.  This is a very frightening abuse of power.

My son had a major head trauma with 49 staples in his head and was experiencing complications.  One of the HCJ doctors repeatedly refused to give my son medical attention.  He needed wound care: his head had to be cleaned to prevent infection and further complications.  My son’s primary care doctor visited him and was very alarmed at how his head looked.  His doctor asked why he was not getting his wound cleaned, and my son advised his doctor that the jail doctor wouldn’t allow it nor would he allow my son to have an extra towel to use on his head so he could try to clean it himself.  My son was to use the very same towel that he dried his entire body and hands with to clean his head.

It was only because my son’s primary care doctor, the Texas Jail Project, my son’s attorney and I all got involved that my son started getting wound care each night.  It is important to have your inmate sign a medical release form so you can keep track of every single thing.  The sad thing is that there are so many others in jail that may not make it home to see their loved ones.  This same doctor was overheard by my son telling another inmate that he “hated to hear whiny inmates complain” when an inmate advised the doctor that he was experiencing chest pains after his open heart surgery.

The HCJ doctor also repeatedly refused to do anything about the swelling in my son’s head. He kept discharging him from the infirmary without medical care.  On April 4th about 5:30PM at jail JA09 2H10E, my son asked a guard for medical assistance.  She refused to help.  She wouldn’t even get up from her chair so he could speak with her.  Afterwards, he was found unconscious on the floor and spent the next 15 days in the hospital and having a third surgery.

The guards complain about their pay, but from the reports I have received, the guards mostly sit and play games on their phones.  When an inmate has a legitimate problem or need, they get irate because the inmates are interrupting Angry Birds (their phone game).  My son was stuck between 2 doors for almost 5 minutes because a guard was playing on her phone and opened one (secure) door for him and went back to playing on her phone without opening the next (secure) door that was about 4 feet away.  She was pretty irritated with him when he finally asked her to open the next door.  It is apparent that the guards’ use of their personal cell phones while on the job is a huge problem at HCJ.
I am outraged at this neglect and abuse, as we all should be. I am also outraged at how taxpayer money is being wasted because Harris County Jail refuses to treat the inmates in a timely manner.  My son would not have had to be in the hospital for 15 days if the doctors and the guards had given him the medical treatment he needed in the first place.  Not only did the taxpayers pay for the hospital stay but also for a police guard
24 hours a day for the entire 15 days.  This should have been a 3 or 4 day hospital stay. Taxpayers, aren’t you outraged?

The guards also violated my son’s constitutional rights because they would not allow his attorney access to him and they “lied” to her regarding his whereabouts.  On April 6th, my son’s attorney called the jail infirmary and asked if he was there.  She was told that he was right there in the infirmary.  We found out later that my son had been admitted to the hospital on April 4th.

When my son was released from the hospital and taken back to the jail, all of his personal items were “missing” from the property room.  I believe that this was yet another form of punishment the guards felt my son deserved.  Harris County Jail had already repeatedly stolen from my son by charging his inmate account for things that he never received.  Abuse of power!  Should the inmates complain?  There are grievance forms but how much worse will an inmate’s life get if he/she were to submit a grievance on anything that is done to them?

As taxpayers, we need to demand that things change at the HCJ, and as human beings, we should demand and pray that things change, people are held accountable for their actions and inactions, and that our loved ones are treated humanely. How would you or more importantly, how would these guards and jail doctors feel if their loved ones made a mistake and were at the mercy of jail staff like themselves?

Please help me and other families who have loved ones at HCJ to demand and insist on change so that problems are handled expeditiously and not escalated into huge problems, costs unnecessary taxpayer dollars, and/or cause the unnecessary death of one of our loved ones.

Go to the Online Complaint Form at the Texas Commission on Jail Standards website and fill it out, and ask them to take a look at how Harris County is treating inmates, especially ones with injuries.

Allowing the Harris County Jail system to operate as they currently are is just plain criminal negligence.


the mother of a person who is sentenced to jail time–not abuse.

29 Comments to “A Mother’s Report on Harris County Jail”

  1. Anonymous says:

    My son was is in Harris County right now. Just last night he was assaulted by an officer. He said another officer stepped in or he is certain he would have been severely beaten for “looking at” the officer. I don’t want my son to file a grievance because I fear retaliation by the guards.
    I pray he can get out safely since he has less than 2 weeks left. I will certainly file a complaint with the commission once I know he is out of there.

    Another mother of a son sentenced to jail, not abuse.

    • Anonymous says:

      I filed a complaint with Texas Commission Of Jail Standards while my son was still in Harris County and immediately after all the guards/staff of the jail were falling all over themselves trying to be nice to my son and fix things that they did. I guess TCJS called them and they knew that we were watching. I thought it did good but keep in mind that you have to keep us with the commission, they do very little so you must keep after them (besides calling the jail they did not do anything). But at least HCJ knew that I was watching and not going to accept what they were doing. You may want to consider doing it now instead of waiting.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank goodness someone is speaking out. I too have had very bad experiences with loved ones in Harris County Jail. My brother was denied medication and went into a seizure and hit his head during the seizure on a bunk causing him to have several stitches. He had begged guards over and over for help right before he went into a seizure. The ignored him and told him to shut-up. This is just one of many bad experiences with HCJ. Anyone who has had a loved one in HCJ knows that the majority of the guards are heartless and if you have a medical condition you are in serious trouble of not only getting very ill but of possibly losing your life.

  3. Anonymous says:

    These stories are appalling. I hope and pray I never have a loved one in HCJ! I would like to know who trains the guards. Do they get training? What does the training include? What qualifications does one need to become a jail guard? Are they all police officers that graduated from the academy? If this is the case, who is responsible for the “jail guard” class and what is taught? When someone commits a crime, they pay for it with their sentence, not abuse at the discretion of red neck guards. Jail guards should have a calm personality with the ability to make sound judgments. Police officers should not be randomly assigned “jail guard duty” if they aren’t able to stay reasonable in the face of taunting, etc. by inmates. I’m sure this happens and is frustrating but it is NOT acceptable to take it out on other inmates in need of a doctor. Medical neglect!? This is despicable and unacceptable. Who oversees the “jail doctors”? I don’t understand how a doctor can NOT treat a wounded human being. Unbelievable! Someone please fix this situation!

  4. Anonymous says:

    YES, to all of the above!!! My brother was an inmate in HCJ, and he was denied his medications that were needed daily! The guards are very “heartless” people, I won’t say “heartless ” humans because they don’t have empathy fo
    inmates. They think, if a person is in jail , they are a bad person, NOT ALL ARE! My brother had to be moved to another unit because of a bully in HCJ, scared for his safety, the guards wouldn’t even budge when he asked for help!!! Are they taught to be like this or, is it that these are lazy AZZ people who really don’t give a damn!

    HCJ NEED A CHANGE!!! If I were to beat my dog and the po po was called on me, I’m sure I would be arrested for my action! So why is it that the guards arent being held responsible for their actions on treating a human being the way they do???

    I HOPE & PRAY someone with a HEART will recognize a change has to come to HCJ, this system has wrong for to long!!!

  5. Anonymous says:

    No the guards are not officers; I’m sure there is training but it is apparent that there is no psychological testing/screening to become a guard. I’m sure that a jail doctor is not the most successful or respected in their field either. From my psychology classes I remember that bullies are very often people who have been bullied or abused themselves, they feel little or no control in their own lives so they choose fields of employment where they are in control. It is pitiful but some people have not worked on resolving issues from their past so they have a great need to feel superior and in control. From all I have heard and read about HCJ I would say that their greatest needs are to do psychological screenings on all applicants and also it would be helpful to point out the humanness of the inmates. The inmates are human and humans make mistakes but many learn from their mistakes and never will repeat their mistakes. HCJ and its employees sound barbaric and yes changes are long overdue. As a citizen of Harris County I am sick of hearing and reading about the abuse and as a taxpayer I am fed up with all the needless lawsuits and wrongful death payouts but as a family member of someone that was in HCJ I am disgusted by how my loved one was treated when he made a mistake. HCJ needs to change!

  6. Anonymous says:

    I keep starting to type a response and then delete. I don’t even know what to say….. As a correctional nurse and supervisor of a medical department in a county jail, I am sickened by the treatement given to this young man.
    Jail is never a place you want to be, but I hope people know there are “good” jails out there. Jails with staff members that care and who provide quality medical care and treatment.

    • admin says:

      You said it very well, and we appreciate hearing from you. I often wish for comments and input from medical staff in jails, and seldom hear from you all. It is so encouraging to hear of jail medical staff who care about the health of the inmates and think of them as human beings. Please feel free to email me at diana@texasjailproject.org and maybe we can talk more; I don’t have to make that public or identify you.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Update from Mother reporting on Harris County Jail: Harris County Jail did nothing to replace my son’s “lost” commissary items for almost 2 weeks until they advised my son that he was ‘catching the chain’ (Texas Department of Criminal Justice was there to get my son) and then and only then does Harris County Jail tell my son that they are now replacing all the stuff that they ‘lost’. Harris County Jail is fully aware that an inmate cannot take anything with them from jail to prison. Of course they waited about 2 weeks until they find out that he is being transferred to prison before they replace his items because that is just how they are. What good are stamps, paper, personal hygiene items and food now? He needed those weeks ago but that is exactly why they were ‘lost’ in the first place. Oppression is how Harris County Jail operates and the citizens of this county need to reign in this out of control jail.

  8. anonymous says:

    I applaud your Texas Jail Project. I thank you for having this info on the net. I work for HCSO therefore I cannot reply to any comments. I have seen similar treatments to inmates and it totally disgusts me. I do everything I can to assist the inmates, as much as I am able to, but I am only one person. As a result of my actions, I am harrassed daily by my supervisor, if not for one thing, then something else. She will find something to yell at me about. I just wanted to let you know that there is someone who works at HCSO detention center and does care, with my whole heart, soul, and mind. Thank you.

    • anonymous says:

      Thank you for not being an asshole. As an inmate who was mistreated we remember the names of those who hurt us, but also the names of those who helped us get through it. I don’t know what I would have done without a certain female deputy in the infirmary. She was a godsend and I definitely wouldn’t have faired if it weren’t for her.

    • Kris says:

      I have spent time in there and there are a few angels and it is so sad to see them treated cruely for no reason other than being human. Im sure there are those inmates who are trouble, and then there are those who arent! I also understand the jailers and gaurds put up wth alot and have safety issues …but Im willing to bet if you just treated us right things would go smoothly. And I thnk you can tell a power hunger little man syndrome *** before you hire them. Why not quit hiring them? I have a family member who is a jailer and 2 secs after mtng them and hearing job I knew what they were! Thank to the angels who endure the abuse daily, voluntarily, to help us!

    • Krishnaveni Gundu says:

      Thank you ‘anonymous’ from HCSO. We really appreciate your comment. We wish we could hear more from folks like you – jail staff – who care. Please feel free to email us at diana@texajailproject.org or call on 512 469-7665 if you ever wish to speak with us anonymously. We would really love to hear from you. We get so many calls for help from families whose loved ones are in HCJ. It would be a tremendous help to have someone on the inside to reach out to.

  9. inmate's mom says:

    My son is currently in HCJ on San Jacinto. He had a work accident in July resulting in multiple breaks in his fingers. He was to have surgery 1/3. HCJ let him see an ortho in jail but they took all the money ($20) from his account to pay for it. According to website only inmate immediate family and attorney van withdraw money. Guess he was made to pay! I’m not particularly sure that Dr will or can do anything. I will definitely send a med authorization for him to sign. I work for attorneys in New Orleans but we cannot afford the $20k a Houston attorney wants so my sonis pretty much flying solo. any feedback to my email is welcomed

    • Alana Caldwell says:

      Hi inmate’s mom. It was my son that this story was about. I think that it is a state law that inmates pay for medical care (non emergency) and it comes out of their inmate account. No matter what you do write down everything you can, make sure you have inmate sign that medial release and have your inmate call you often to tell you what is happening. I had my son calling me 3 times a day some days (he was really injured and went from ICU to HCJ) and had a ton of complications. Have your son remember times, names and places, you can call or report stuff to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards if the jailers or jail doctor does something wrong. Good luck and pay constantly.

  10. Alana Caldwell says:

    Re Harris county jail
    To the inmate’s mom: Also PRAY constantly. Pray for your inmate and pray that the jailers and jail doctor at HCJ
    have mercy and treat all the inmates like it was their own loved ones who just made a mistake in life and was in jail posing for their mistake. Some inmates are innocent and have not even had their day in court yet. Pray that these jailers treat your son like they themselves would want to be treated.

  11. Linda Marshall says:

    My son was just released from HCJ and he is traumatized he can’t sleep he is in a deep depression, he told me he don’t remember what happen to him. He said when he woke up one day he was in the hospital. The doctors told him he had been their for a couple of weeks due to he had mulitple Seizures. He has never had a Seizure in his life before going there. And now he want eat sometime, he waits up every morning at 4:00 traumatized, hollering out his spin # and calling for help. he was in their for 2 years. Can anyone help me i don’t know who to call for help. Please point me in the right direction on who to talk to about this. He was a healthy young man when he went in there. What did they do to him he was on lock down so he wasn’t with any other inmates so it was the guards…. Please help desperate MOM!!!!

  12. Anonymous says:

    I had terrible experience here. I was on a strict medication schedule. I needed my medication upon booking and they wanted to complete the booking process first. I quit breathing and was intubated, spending over 2 weeks in the hospital. They were extremely unreliable and inconsistent with medications in the infirmary, leading to frequent asthma attacks. During a particularly bad attack the jail doctor turned me away, saying I was faking it. By the time I had my next treatment I was extremely swollen and my lungs had collapsed. I don’t remember anything until I woke up in the hospital with a tracheostomy and a tube in each lung. They were unable to obtain a patent airway and therefore had to insert a trache. The jail tried to say I had a reaction to Benadryl. When I was released and saw my own doctor on the outside, he said that was impossible, but the pneumothorax was caused by failure to treat the asthma attack. …it gets worse… The infirmary failed to suction the new trache as needed so it became occluded and I, again, had trouble breathing because my tube was clogged. The trache was removed and I was intubated. After this I was breathing fine, making reinsertion of the trache an elective procedure. I told them I didn’t want it and I was told I had “no patient rights as an inmate”. I was then tied to the bed while they did procedures against my will while I was fully awake. Upon returning to the jail I had my hands and feet handcuffed to a stretcher in the infirmary to keep me from removing my trache (which I no longer needed). I was only allowed up to use the restroom where they cuffed me behind my back to do so. About two weeks into being cuffed to the stretcher my wrist started to hurt. I told them it hurt but was ignored. I developed a painful mosquito bite-like bump that was warm to the touch. I was still ignored. The bump grew to a golf-ball size. I was still denied care. It burst. I had a staph infection so severe I required surgery. All in all I was cuffed to the bed for a month. I only got to shower 3 times in that period. I now have scars on my neck from the trache and a deep 4-5 inch scar on my wrist. The inconsistent medication dosage (with hormones) caused my hair to fall out. I get stared at everywhere I go.

  13. Vickie says:

    I have a daughter in HCJ right now, she violated her probation. I agree she has to serve her time. She has a meth drug problem and has gotten sores all over her. They won’t give her medical care so, the wounds I think have gotten staff infection and are getting worse. What can I do to get her some help.

  14. Harris county officers, crooks says:

    Wow it disgusts me how crooked and fucked up this place is! I myself was incarcerated at the harris county jail. Staff NEVER gives you the meds you need. When they finally do give you the meds you need, the next day they tell you they have no more and itll be 2 weeks before you can get your meds back because they need to order it. If somebodys life is in danger, wouldn’t you make a run to get the right meds the same day? …..[last sentence deleted by TJP}

    • admin says:

      Good point about the casusal way jails treat meds. Many jails don’t bother to keep enough meds or even dispense them irregularly or at different times on different days.
      I know the meds I take at home have specific instructions, like must be one hour before eating, first thing in the morning or only take with meals. I realize it’s difficult to coordinate all that in a jail setting, but if you’re going to give meds, you should be doing it the right way or you can really harm people.

  15. Justin says:

    I was in Harris County Jail for three days with a fresh gunshot wound. I left the hospital and was given a strict regimine of antibiotics to take. When I got to jail they said I had to be booked in to get any meds and that they don’t give any pain meds out. I asked a guard to take me to the nurse as well as another inmate. When we went the nurse was more interested on my case being on the news than the pain I was in or the possibility that I may get an infection because the bullet passed through my legs and was still in my testicles. Also I wasn’t able to get my blood pressure meds. This is vey sad because they told me that once I was booked in that I would get meds. However I was booked in and 24 plus hours later I still got no medical attention. I didn’t sleep the whole time I was in there and my friends posted my bond thank God and I was put in freezing cell with other inmates getting released for five hours. Due to the fact I came there from the hospital I was wearing a paper outfit with no shoes. Just slippers they gave me and I thought I was gonna catch hypothermia. The guards were all laughing at us. Very sadistic people I must say. I prayed to God to fight through everything and after 4 to 5 hours I was released. I walked into downtown totally disoriented and confused because I did not sleep on the concrete floor. The jail was overcrowded and we were given nothing to drink. It was a total nightmare and I am thankful to have made it out. While I was there I alo watched a guy go into a seizure and it took the guards ten minutes to help him also another guy have a mild heart attack because they wouldn’t give him his medicine. I can honestly say that they treat animals better than they would in there. I understand it is in jail but this is not right especially refusing meds that you need that may cost your life and being totally disregarded

  16. Concerned Mom says:

    My son is currently in HCJ and just got moved for the third time. The first time was due to guys grabbing his butt and the guards doing absolutely nothing. This last time he was moved after I went to visit him and he had a purple bruise all the way around his arm. When he went to infirmary, they took money out of his commissary, and I am just wondering, don’t our tax dollars pay for that? Also if the guards were doing their job than he wouldn’t have had to go. So what can I do to get this shit fixed?

  17. junior says:

    I was in hcj from Sept 2015 to dec14 2015 at 1200 Baker. I speak to confirm that all of these people speak the truth of what is happening in hcj. I have a medical condition that I have a medical device attached to me. this device is a heart pump that circulates the blood from the left side of my heart to the aorta. My condition is very serious and I too experienced all the hardships as other fellow inmates. There is a Dr. Fontenot who really needs to retire. Too many inmates are being treated like or worse than animals. A lot are treated like nobodys. I overheard an inmate needing help asking this “Dr” to please get him help ,a nurse answered;” you think we’re just going to jump? Your in Mother Fu…n JAIL”. The inmate felt so bad he just walked out of the “office”. He walked over to me and said,” you’re next and good luck”. “I could die here and nobody would care”. There are a couple of real nurses in there that do care. A few years back the federal government shut down one of the jails because of this. They did an investigation and found omg a lot of impropriety. This jail needs to be investigated thoroughly but without notice. I know with a couple of interviews with random inmates they can find answers. My advice to anyone with family in this jail is to get them out while they’re still alive. I saw too many inmates going to surgery with broken jaws and wired up mouths. Wound care is ridiculous. One day u may have it another u may not. Medicines may be available and may not. Either way people shouldn’t be treated like nobodys.

    • admin says:

      I know this must have been horrible to experience and we are sorry you were treated like that. Yes, the jail does need to be investigated by the DOJ. And we keep hearing about bad care from a Dr. Fontenot at the Harris County Jail…I am going to write the new sheriff and ask him if he is interested in hearing about bad medical care in his jail or maybe I should just talk to the Houston media about that. Anybody who can tell us more about Dr. Fontentot, please email us at info@texasjailproject.org or comment on here! Thanks very much.

  18. Worried Mother says:

    I got online to get visiting information in HCJ and came across this very scary…My son is also in Harris County Jail and is worries sick for his safety and well being. He was taken by ambulance the night of arrest due to the K9 dog biting him. It was a horrific experience for him and my entire family. it has been almost two weeks ago and have not heard from him yet, how long do I wait for a call from him…there are a lot of things that i feel was not handled fully correctly and pretty mysterious I must say. I am left with horrifying memories of that night not sure how long it will take for me to get that fear out of system let alone my sons, it was totally unexpected. I hope and pray that he gets the proper treatment for his dog bite with no infections and that he serves whatever time he has too and released with few scares and a sane mind. for the inmates that was treated unfairly I pray for their healing as well as their families.

  19. another Mom says:

    This is a very scary situation to think people have to live like this at this day and time . I agree with her as this being abuse. It also is a thriving business for someone with $15 calls from jail . . We need prison reform!

    • Concerned Mother says:

      My son what put out of a room he was renting in Houston and tried to walk to a family members home when he grew tired and set on a bench to rest, fell asleep and woke up to police officer arresting him stating that he was trespassing. The judge gave him a personal bond and they still want let him out. Not having any finances to obtain a lawyer, I sit and wait hoping they will release him. If anyone can help please respond, I’m afraid for my son just from reading these horrible story of neglect and abuse at the jail and he left Detroit to further his education and find better jobs and now that he graduated and had two jobs he has lost both jobs due to the situation. I just need him out #so a good guy want go bad#..#worried mother#.

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