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Jailhouse Stories: Effects of Pretrial Detention

Jun 12th, 2014 | Category: Jailhouse Stories

Mentally Ill inmates -rowing-numbers-of-the-mentally-illDo you know that everyday Texans are losing jobs and being disconnected from their families while  waiting for their cases to be processed?  They are the “innocent until proven guilty” and their numbers are astounding: 60% of the people in your average Texas county jail haven’t yet been convicted of anything, but are kept behind bars for weeks and months or even years, often because they simply cannot afford to post bail.

That’s why Texas Jail Project started Jailhouse Stories: Effects of Pretrial Detention. Everybody—legislators, religious leaders, and the public—needs to know what happens to people’s lives when they are held for any period at all pretrial. The effect on individuals and communities is tremendous and changes must be made to reduce jail time for those charged with misdemeanors and minor felonies. Remember “charged with” doesn’t mean they are guilty!

Locking up people who are not yet convicted is causing needless damage and pain, and it’s almost entirely affecting poor, non-violent offenders. Once in the jail, their cases and their lives change for the worse, resulting in long-term costs to counties and communities. See the Houston Chronicle article about the shocking effects on Houstonians. We need to find smart alternatives to the lengthy pretrial detention common here.

Texas Jail Project is beginning to take road trips around Texas — collecting real-life accounts for our new campaign and documenting the way people and communities are damaged. By getting those stories to the media, legislators and county officials, we aim to educate all Texans and facilitate the creation of solutions that will keep low level offenders out of jail.

The more voices unite, the more change is possible–and so we hope you will share your story with us!  Send your story to: info@texasjailproject.org


Are Texas Jails Holding Too Many People Pretrial?

By Emily Ling, TJP Project Coordinator

The Montgomery County jail has recently made news in for its overcrowding issues, and articles like these from Grits for Breakfast and Houston Press’ blog have rightly emphasized that a significant part of the problem is due to high rates of pretrial detention. The August 2014 population report from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards states that 73.15% of inmates being held in Montgomery County (MoCo) are considered pretrial, meaning that they have yet to be convicted of anything and are presumably innocent until proven guilty. And yet those 812 pretrial inmates in MoCo this month are still being subjected to the difficult reality of being overcrowded in a jail with questionable conditions, often simply because they and their families are not able to afford the high bail amounts issued by the court.

In recent months as the Montgomery County commissioners have grappled with the issue of overcrowding at the facility, TJP has received increasing numbers of complaints from MoCo inmates about inedible food, issues with water at times being undrinkable, and most of all, lack of sufficient medical care.

The issue of incarcerating large numbers of people who have not been convicted is by no means unique to Montgomery County. Drawing from the TCJS population report from May 2014, TJP has identified the following 75 counties as having the highest rates of pretrial detainees in Texas. Of course some of the highest rates occur in very small counties where only a handful of inmates are housed, but many large and mid-sized counties also have alarmingly high rates of pretrial inmates – and anecdotal evidence from TJP’s intake of complaints suggests that at least some of those folks are spending many months and sometimes years waiting for their cases to be settled. The effects on their lives and the lives of their families are devastating.

These findings raise many questions about why so many people are being incarcerated in Texas without a finding of guilt — because court systems are so clogged with cases? Because counties are pursuing high arrest rates? The public should be asking those questions more loudly since we’re footing the bill for all of these inmates, and here at the Texas Jail Project we’re eager to hear from you if you or your loved one has experience in any of these high pretrial jails:

Hansford 100.00% 7
Briscoe 100.00% 6
Culberson 100.00% 5
Stonewall 100.00% 5
Terrell 100.00% 3
Lipscomb 100.00% 1
Karnes 96.30% 27
Marion 93.75% 32
Ochiltree 93.75% 16
Hockley 93.33% 60
Andrews 92.59% 36
Lamb 91.49% 47
Hamilton 90.48% 21
Brazoria 87.73% 701
Reagan 87.50% 8
Wharton 87.41% 143
Nacogdoches 86.36% 242
Llano 85.71% 49
Kimble 85.71% 14
Erath 85.26% 95
Cass 83.65% 104
Jack 83.33% 24
Cochran 83.33% 6
Hopkins 83.13% 83
Lavaca 81.25% 32
Hardin 80.14% 141
Van Zandt 80.11% 181
Shelby 80.00% 40
Jones 80.00% 25
Glasscock 80.00% 5
Gillespie 78.95% 38
Anderson 78.33% 180
Coryell 78.31% 83
La Salle 78.26% 23
Crosby 77.78% 9
Eastland 77.46% 71
Medina 77.27% 66
Rockwall 76.89% 212
Stephens 76.74% 43
Young 76.54% 81
Duval 75.61% 41
Navarro 75.57% 176
Wheeler 75.00% 16
Sabine 75.00% 12
Kendall 74.51% 51
Midland 74.33% 374
Maverick 74.29% 70
Leon 74.29% 35
Polk 74.05% 158
Comal 73.56% 261
Cooke 73.49% 166
Montgomery 73.47% 1097
Camp 73.33% 30
Chambers 72.73% 121
Trinity 72.73% 22
San Saba 72.73% 11
Swisher 72.73% 11
Dallas 72.68% 6252
Gray 72.55% 51
Upshur 72.04% 93
Gaines 72.00% 50
Palo Pinto 71.93% 114
Moore 71.88% 32
Bell 71.78% 698
Travis 71.61% 2325
Morris 71.43% 28
Callahan 71.43% 14
Waller 71.05% 76
Brooks 70.97% 31
Kerr 70.95% 148
Angelina 70.89% 213
Fannin 2 (P) 70.79% 89
Ector 70.70% 604
Grayson 70.60% 381
Castro 70.59% 17
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Laura and Rickey Gann
8 years ago

Wanted to say Thank You, for coming to Montgomery County Jail with your knowledge. I know we still have a long way to go but you have started us on the right track. I’m sure there are days when you see or e-mail pop up and think WHAT NOW. But you always respond with your valued advice.

Thanks again
Laura and Rickey Gann

Luzelena Perianza
7 years ago

I want to say Thank you to your project , and and Dedication and efforts. , Helping. The Most needed , I Thank. GOD For This. People ,in tx jail Project, ia’m been thru a lots. Of. Gov agencies and. Organization lately seeking help without. Luck for my IDD Mental. Il Son incarceted in Bexar detention center, Until. I heard from you , and. Hear positive answer and. Comfort also A very Compassionate lady, Thanks GOD For. This Jail Project