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Giving a sick inmate the benefit of the doubt can save his life

Apr 27th, 2014 | Category: Denton County, Families Speak Out
Linell Redden lost her beloved husband Robert to the Denton county jail, a place often accused of having poor medical care
and indifferent staff. Her insightful comments come on the 8th anniversary of his death.

“The inmates need to be given the benefit of the doubt when they have a potential life threatening complaint and they should be treated the sameway they’d be treated in any other any doctor’s office. Protocols need to constantly be reviewed and adhered to, and sometimes common sense needs to come into play. Don’t listen to those staff who insinuate inmates are going to the infirmary to do some easy time or because they want to look at a pretty nurse….a person in jail can be sick and if untreated, they can and do die.”


A wife reports serious neglect: “My husband is in the Harris County jail right now and they lowered the dosage of a psych med for PTSD, if they give it to him at all. He also has a severe calcium deficiency and no one bothers to give him the calcium packets anymore after he was moved out of the medical unit. The calcium deficiency almost killed him and no one in there bothers to care about an inmates health. Another inmate passed out and no one bothered to even check on him. These people do not seem to care about the inmates at all.”

Alana thanks us for helping when her son was endangered in Houston

“Thank you Texas Jail Project: I don’t know if you remember me but my son was almost killed by neglect, by a Harris County Jail doctor and guards. They neglected his medical care after he had a major head injury. You published his story in May 2013. Unbelievably, he made it out of there alive (thanks to you & others who fought for him).

“I never realized how sadistic jailers and jail doctors could be, and I’m thankful that you were there for me and my son when we needed you. I just made a donation to TJP and you’ll forever be in my heart and I hope to be able to donate more later. Keep up the good work, obviously we need you!”

Texas Jail Project is dependent on small donations  like Alana contributed and now more than ever, we need your small donation! Remember we are a 501 (c)(3) under the name Jail Project of Texas and you can donate here or get our address HERE.

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Three months back, Cathy emailed and called us repeatedly, desperate for help for her 40-year-old brother, Chris, being held pretrial in the Liberty County Jail. Innocent until proven guilty, right? And he is also sick: Chris is a stroke victim, a mental health patient and a diabetic with neurapathy in his feet. Liberty County’s solution? Keep him in a solitary cell, with terribly inadequate medical care. He existed in their Liberty County Jail like that for almost seven months, during which time his notes and complaints were confiscated.

Of course, he was confused and very afraid of the jailers (in fact, he said one had assaulted him). The sheriff and even his lawyer ignored his reports, but Cathy could find the truth within his confusion, and she is also an RN and had his medical records. She kept probing, and finding out more and more disturbing information. They didn’t get him a wheelchair to use and he fell. He was losing weight–eventually as much as 50 lbs. A jail nurse admitted she hadn’t read his medical records. The emergency button in his solitary cell didn’t even work. They reduced his seizure medicine and he had more seizures and he was hearing voices.

“I do not know Jail Laws, but the standard of care by law seems to be being broken,” said Cathy.

He was terrified of speaking frankly to the psychiatrist during the examinations via a video screen, because staff was sitting next to him. So nothing was done about his deteriorating mental state.He broke Cathy’s heart when he cried and asked her if everybody thought he was crazy.

She kept asking questions–of us here at the Texas Jail Project, of his lawyer, of the Sheriff, of the nursing staff at the jail, even of the DA.  If anybody needs directions on what you have to do

Here is the story in Cathy’s own words:

Wanted to let you know that my brother is being sent to a state hospital. If you had not led me, this wouldn’t have happened. You are doing a great work. I was grateful for the information. Even the little things you told me has made a big difference.

I visited the Liberty County jail where he was held for 7 months. Reminded the jail I was his advocate. Talked to nurses about his care. I let them know I was going to write Texas Jail Standards if they did not attend to my brother’s medical needs. I let the clerks, warden, nurses, sheriff’s office know I would stay on top of everything that he was entitled to. I called weekly and talked to every department and let them know who I was and what I expected according to the law. I went and retrieved all of his medical records and took them with me. Most of the nurses there did not even know what condition my brother was in until I brought it to there attention. One even admitted she had never read his records. So I would advise everyone, don’t be intimidated by anyone.

The best advice you gave me was go see the district attorney about hlm being incompetent. That they needed to get him a psych evaluation. Of course they would not talk to me without his attorney, however I just kept talking even though they told me they couldn’t hear it. But because I went to see the DA, the lawyer felt he was boxed in.

When we came to court in Liberty County he did not speak to us. He went to see the DA (who had “promised” us an audience with the lawyer”). We did not get it. However, when he hollered down the hall for us to talk, which was rude, he let us know he had requested the psychological evaluation I had begged for. He asked me what I had hoped to get out of all of this. I told him bluntly, that I know that something has changed with my brother since he had his second stroke in jail, and that he needed a state hospital. He just laughed at me. But long story short: the judge agreed!!!!

It would help to have power of attorney, use any qualifications you have, e.g. I am a Registered Nurse and an ordained minister,  and I was able to use those credentials, so I could see him at hours others couldn’t.

When I visited I would take a second pastor with me also to push the fact because they would try to say they have to call the supervisor to see if he could be seen. So I waited patiently. And if the answer was no, then I wanted to know why. If that did not work then I ask to speak to the supervisor. We always got in. Eventually I had no more problems. The clerks came to know me by first person and were friendly.

Be polite but aggressive and let them know you love your loved one, that they are important to you and your family and that you will be here to fight for them. Mention Texas Jail Standards and everyone pays attention. Take anyone with you that understands the system so that you don’t get “run over.”

In a system where so much is confusing, lack of knowledge, non-communication between the law/lawyers and a feeling of helplessness, it can be overwhelming. I just took all the information you supplied and began to be aggressive with it. I can’t remember where we started, but I know I listened to everything you said. Your organization is vital. Please believe what you are doing changes lives. I am forever grateful.
Thank You again.

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From L.A., John Doe writes:

“My good Marine veteran friend has been in the Dallas County Jail (Lew Sterrett) for a few months, and there has been multiple issues and events, as you can imagine, that made him even more discouraged, in spite of his many physical ailments, which were only exacerbated by the conditions there.

Diana expressed much understanding and compassion and her group took action by contacting various people that could help my friend. He has since felt somewhat better, knowing that someone on the outside was watching out for him and keeping the jail accountable. Thank you, Texas Jail Project!”


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“Lou Sterrit  is seriously confusing! What I found most helpful from the TJP website were the tips on visiting Lew Sterrett. What little info the Dallas County sheriff’s page provided was NOTHING compared to what your site had listed.  Had I gone only based on what the sheriff’s office page told me, I really think I’d have spent the 2 hours trying to figure out where to go and what to do, much less what to expect.


“While waiting in line I saw at least 5 people turned away for dress code, carrying in their purses or for standing in the wrong line for the wrong location.”

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This is about a woman who needed help and treatment while in an East Texas jail. The family has fear of retribution so they never use her name. One relative who has been helping her loved one deal with a mental disorder says:

“Just sending a word of thanks to TJP.  The efforts of the TJP has truly been a blessing to all those who are incarcerated especially my sweet ****** ********.  And our whole family appreciates it.


“On this day in July of 2013, she is leaving North Texas State Hospital (which has to be the BEST IN TEXAS) and is being transported to a Rusk, Texas hospital, a less restrictive type environment.  She still has a long way to go – but now she is at least much closer to her hometown and family, instead of being more than 500 miles away.”


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