Voices of Pretrial Detention in Texas
September 16, 2015
Jailhousestories.org lets people across Texas describe, in their own words, the often-devastating impact of incarceration in local jails. The contributors come from some 34 Texas counties, revealing issues in both urban and rural facilities, with an emphasis on small to medium-sized jails. This collection of stories from families and individuals across Texas was possible by a generous grant from Public Welfare Foundation.
In the average county jail in Texas, more than 70% of the people are not yet convicted. Problems include poor medical care, untreated mental illness, overuse of solitary for those with mental disorders, inhumane jail conditions, lack of care during pregnancy, overly long pretrial incarceration. More than the individual is affectedâ€”damage is done to families, livelihoods and communities.
In a video on the Jailhouse Stories site, the father of 18-year-old Victoria Gray speaks to the Senate Criminal Justice committee about his daughter’s suicide.
“Heard a lot about forms here, and my daughter’s intake form actually had the checkmark that said suicidal. Four days later she was able to leave that jail dead,” said John Gray III. “There was absolutely no doubt that Brazoria County [knew] my daughter was suicidal.”
“We believe that the power of Jailhouse Stories challenges the complacency many have about the incarceration of people who, through lack of money or failures of the justice system, are needlessly held in jail while awaiting disposition of their cases,” says Diana Claitor, executive director of the nonprofit Texas Jail Project.
More accounts are being collected and anyone who wishes to tell their story about pretrial detention in a county jail are invited to write or use the Share-a-Story form on the website.
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One of the stories in the collection tells about the beloved son of Mr. and Mrs. Torres of El Paso. In this video, Carlota shares how Bexar county neglected her son who has a history of epilepsy and mental health issues, while he was held for 9 months before having a trial. By telling their story, Mr. and Mrs. Torres hope to raise public awareness of how jailing people with mental disorders for months while they await trial can lead to further trauma and injuries.