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Disabled veteran describes Montgomery County Jail

Jun 3rd, 2014 | Category: Montgomery County, Stories

I’m James Bernard, a pastor and a disabled veteran. I was jailed on a warrant by the Judge on a probation revocation due to a failed urinalysis. Although I had provided my probation officer a letter from my doctor stating what medication I took–Phenobarbital—and that it was necessary for seizures, the officer failed to turn the letters into the court. He also failed to review the U.A. properly and sent a notice to the court that I had violated my probation.

In the end, after two and half weeks, $1500 and an attorney, the Judge sent a Court Ordered Release immediately. No apology, no compensation, no recognition of error.

In the meantime, my life and my families’ lives were devastated.

The worst part about the Montgomery County jail is what happens to people who have medical conditions and cannot get their medicine. Nobody responds no matter how much you’re suffering. I am disabled and I filed request forms, wrote grievances, filed medical at least 20 request to see the doctor, wrote the Lieutenant in charge, informed booking; classification; medical and all of the POD 5 Officers on duty. But I was never called to see the Doctor nor did I see a Nurse or Nurse Practitioner, and was denied medication for my seizures, depression, anxiety and chronic pain. I was also denied a bottom bunk and most importantly denied proper medical care and attention to my disabilities. Nurses ignored my wife’s pleas for help. I spoke to them during morning and evening medical pass. They ignored me and they said I was getting my medications when I was not.

When I was confined originally in May of 2013, I was treated exactly the same was. Because I was ill, I fell asleep in the booking area; an officer kicked me while I was sleeping. He said I did not answer him, so I was “non-compliant.” This would be a felony “injury to a disabled” under other circumstances, but it is apparently not true for Sheriffs deputies. The Grievance Officer stated that the video of that particular day in which I was kicked was not available.

I was made to sleep on the floor for three days because I could not climb into a top bunk due to nerve damage my lumbar spine. I was not given my blood pressure medicine for over two weeks. The Jail Rule Book given me said “inmates have the right to receive medications delivered by the family,” but they refused to accept anything at first and after two weeks the V.A. got involved and sent re-sealed medications for my blood pressure. My wife was told to take my medication bottles to the V.A. and have them re-sealed, before they would accept them. In March, they did not require them to be sealed as before. They don’t even follow their own rules.

The jail refused to give me meds for Fibromyalgia and general nerve pain and they refused Phenobarbital for my seizures stating again that it too was a “Narcotic.”  Tramadol prescribed for pain due to bulging disc, Stenosis and Facet Syndrome was refused as it too was mistakenly called it a “Narcotic.”  And lastly, my anti-anxiety medication was denied. Again they mistakenly called it a “Narcotic.”  My doctor on the outside finally tried prescribing me Carisoprodol to help control muscle spasms in my back and legs. Again they wrongfully referred to it as a “Narcotic” and it was denied.

Yes, they had my V.A. and Family Physicians records to review.But they made taunting remarks concerning my disability and ignored pleas for help. It was all a joke to the medical staff. I now have nightmares about my experience in the Montgomery County Texas Jail.

Others were abused and neglected in there too, and some of the cases were much worse than mine. Marc H______ was beaten up by some officers and was brought in with a broken upper jaw, eye sockets and upper pallet of his mouth requiring 19 screws, denied his pain medications. He was also denied his psychotropic medications: anti-psychotics and anxiety prescriptions. Although prescribed by his physician and brought in by his family, the medical department refused to help this man. I saw him writhing in pain every day. His requests and grievances like mine were ignored. Talking to the nurses and POD officers was met with indifference.

I witnessed one violent act by an officer while incarcerated there in March of 2014. A guard I’ll call Sgt. told everyone to get on their bunks because the female officer that took over for him before lunch had said that the inmates at the television were being too loud. While in our bunks, he refused to let anyone go to the restroom as needed. He did allow restroom breaks on the half hour for about 5 minutes, however, for some, like myself, it is hard to go to the restroom on cue as we take water pills for high BP.

Sgt and an inmate called Chipmunk got into it and the F bomb was used a lot. Sgt. told him to turn around so he could cuff him. The inmate refused and asked to see the Lieutenant on duty. Sgt. R told him to go out in the holding area between the Pod and the Control room. There are no cameras there. Sgt. went out and told him to turn around so that he could cuff him until the Lieutenant arrived. When he turned around, Sgt. shoved his head against the wall, injuring Chipmunk enough that he started to bleed. Sgt. then began to wrestle with the inmate. The inmate, in fear for his life, tried to protect himself. He never struck the officer but he just tried to keep him from hurting him again. Sgt. finally settled down and the inmate allowed him to cuff him. The Lieutenant never came.

Almost everyone filed a grievance. The grievance officer finally showed up and stood in defense of Sgt’s actions. He told us that Sgt. was in charge and what he says or does is final. The grievance officer was also very vulgar with his language and made fun of inmates, alluding to their crimes and saying “if you don’t like it, don’t come to jail.”

“Innocent until proven guilty is not true here. They treat everyone like  a vile, detestable convict but many of the people have not even been tried or they’re being falsely charged.

Officer “Mac” was the only officer that took me aside and informed me of my rights. He told me that the medical department was out of line and that I should seek counsel after I was released. He agreed that the jail was unfairly treating Disabled Veterans like me. Any disabled person jailed in MOCO can only pray to live through that horrid painful experience.

I would tell you the ridiculous reason I was originally jailed for, however; I feel it pointless. The D.A. got her conviction under less than truthful or honorable conduct, yet I feel it best not to fight this County even though my lawyer told me in 6 to 9 months I could go to trial and beat the case. I would lose my V.A. benefits in 6 months and most importantly I could not endure the dangerous conditions for that long. I am now on probation for Misdemeanor Assault. As a Pastor, certainly I am very unhappy and in consternation over this…

Living in this Jail’s harsh environment with chronic pain, seizures, panic attacks, and nerve pain and muscle spasms caused me to suffer traumatic stress and I continue to have nightmares concerning this issue. Please investigate this Jail and file suit if possible to cause them to change their policy to reflect the Law, the 8th amendment as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act. I do not seek compensation or apology. I seek change so that others will not have to suffer the pain and disrespect that I did.

I am grateful to the Texas Jail Project for taking an interest in changing things in Montgomery County.


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Concerned Citizen of Conroe
7 years ago

After reading your story I sit here with tears in my eyes because my fiancé is currently in the Montgomery County Jail and he has described virtually every situation that you did. He has experienced the lack of medical care, withheld medications, and indifference by the medical staff.
If I ever decide to run for office in Montgomery County, my first priority will be to help the poor souls in that God forsaken jail.

Jim Butler (James Bernard)

Thank you so much for your repliy. It means a lot to me and many others as well. Feel free to contact me at cowboypastorjim@yahoo.com any time if I can be of any assistance to you and your fiance.

7 years ago

This. Hit. Home. I was in there 3 days couldn’t eat the food. My mate has been since jan of 2014 and he tells me horrible stories that match and go above what i have read. How does one county have laws of their own? What can i do to start a change? Yes this county will be after anyone who challanges it. I have plenty of family w mental conditions …. I’d rather me instead of them. We should never mess w/ sick and weak. sadsad county