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Henry: Denied Medical Care while Awaiting Trial in Dallas County Jail

Jun 7th, 2015 | Category: Dallas County, Stories

Henry was held for thirteen months pretrial in Dallas County Jail. While being arrested and then living in the jail, he suffered injuries, went without medical care, and was denied medication. His mother, who lives on disability, would eat less in order to provide him money for phone calls and commissary food. This story is told by his mother, Angel Rose.

I want to tell you about these things because it has to get better, people have to know about it, we have to change what happens in these jails and in the justice system.

My son Henry was under a doctor’s care when he was arrested. He was going to physical therapy. The Garland police beat him up. He told them before they even put their knees on his back that he had been in a car wreck recently and his back was injured severely. Then they put their knees in his back and handcuffed him on the bed and hurt him much worse.

He passed out from the pain when they were questioning him at the police station. They twisted him like a pretzel. If a person is seeing a doctor and doing treatment for something, they need to be kept safe. And they should keep doing that doctor’s treatment when they are in jail, otherwise they’re going to get worse. I tried to bring in his medicine and they wouldn’t take it. They said they wouldn’t prescribe it because it was expired. But I took pictures of the labels and I have them. It was not expired.

There was no way to stay healthy in there. The people on the top bunks would always get sick and sicker, because the air vents are so filthy and are blowing out dirt and dust right into the air you breathe. I couldn’t do anything about that even though I asked. That is the first thing I would want to change about the jail. Clean the air vents so the men can breathe.

Henry had an emergency one night where he couldn’t breathe. They have a bell they ring when they need help. He rang and rang it one night and they wouldn’t come. He also has sleep apnea but they won’t let him have a CPAP machine.

I complained to the judge because the guys were getting rotten food. If you got a serving of mashed potatoes, some of it would be black and you might get one good bite. They were getting green bologna, spoiled vegetables.

I went to the judge and told her about this problem. She sent the bailiff down there to inspect the food they were serving, to give the kitchen a look. The food got better after that. But they didn’t ever get enough food to eat. Henry has to buy ramen noodles to get enough food at all.

The other most important thing that needs to change is that they need to get rid of the guards that torment and torture the prisoners. There is a guard that slams people’s hands in metal doors. He is known for doing this, other guards even talk about it.

He put my son in the hole [solitary confinement] for a week because, he said, Henry cussed at him. Listen, I used to be a trucker. I curse much more than he does. My son even gets on me for my language at times. He does not like cursing. But the guards will use any excuse to punish you. You are guilty until proven innocent.

I am getting disability for working for over forty years in my life. I’ve had three professions. Cosmetologist, long-distance truck driver and working for the phone company. Now I’m retired, disabled, I have arthritis, brittle diabetes, a bulged disc in my back. I had five grandchildren in my house that I was supporting at that time. I could not keep putting money in his commissary. The jail takes the money from their commissary, they take it for any reason at all. What little money I could put on the books for him, the jail would find a way to take most of the money.

Lew Sterret Justice Center, Dallas County, photo from Flickr with Creative Commons license

Lew Sterret Justice Center, Dallas County, photo from Flickr with Creative Commons license

They take $10 when you request to see a doctor. They call it a “kite.” When you request something on paper, it’s a kite. They take $10 from your commissary whenever you put in a request to see a doctor. They charge for putting in a medical request! Even when the doctor did not do the job right the first time, and they had to go back to see him again, they had to pay again to request it.

The sheriff told me that whenever I call in to make a complaint, they charge $10 from Henry’s commissary. He said they had to charge money for a complaint. They didn’t ever take money out that we noticed. They never did it. But that was the threat. Maybe he was saying it to scare me, I don’t know.

And the phone calls are outrageous! You can’t even believe it. When they’re in jail, they’ve got to be able to have communications with their family. It was costing me almost a hundred dollars a month to talk to him on the phone. That was a lot of my income. I would go without food and go without my medications, in order to talk to him on the phone. I would go without, so he could have.

I did a lot to help with the jail. I did everything humanly one person could do. I would keep calling. Even at midnight, if things were going wrong.

At one time there was a guard who was really nice and understanding on the floor he was on. The power breaker would pop and then they couldn’t make hot water to make the ramen noodles. When the breaker went out, that nice guard said,”Okay, whose Mom called in and complained?” and she looked at my son. “It was your mom!” She was making a joke. But she knew it was true.

If the moms don’t complain from the outside, they get no help. Nothing gets done.

There is a lot of mental stress. As a mom, I wanted to make things better. And he would get on me, be upset with me, because of the things that they would do to him in the jail, that I couldn’t do anything about. It almost pushed me over the cliff. I thought very seriously about shooting myself. I was that bad. [tears]

What helped me feel better was my doctor. He told me he thought I was doing pretty good, handling everything. That I was doing pretty good because I wasn’t in a rubber room and I hadn’t jumped off the cliff yet. That helped me to hear.

I had no idea what the justice system was, before I got involved with it. How bad it was. I hope some laws can be changed. We really need to make this system better, because how it is now is not alright.

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5 years ago

This sounds so familiar to me.Its not only that jail, but many.My son has a mental illness and also an injury of the neck.
Little food, bad food, medical paid out of commissary, torture,abuse,lack of proper meds it’s all over and overflows into our prisons
All the reform in world doesn’t help any if you continue to allow jailers and guards to abuse inmates

sheila lester
5 years ago

my son is in county jail also hs blood pressure is at stroke leval an does not get medical treatment can anyone tell me what to do or if there is a lawyer that can help…..

Jeanette Rivett
5 years ago

My brother Craig Morris died in that jail in 2009. It makes me sick to read that this is still going on over there… We sued Dallas County and Sheriff Lupe Valdez and won in a court of law. Nothing will make it change.
There needs to be more people like you to try and get something done. Unfortunately it seems NOTHING will work. I hope to god that woman does not get voted in as Sheriff again.
God Bless you…