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Lawsuit Reveals Shocking Abuse in Victoria County Jail

Jun 7th, 2016 | Category: Lead Article, Victoria County

By CAMERON LANGFORD in Courthouse News, June 6, 2016

VICTORIA, Texas (CN) — A state watchdog demands access to a Texas jail to investigate reports a suicidal inmate was stripped and strapped into a chair for 18 hours and forced to urinate and defecate on himself.
As Texas’ designated “Protection and Advocacy System,” Disability Rights Texas monitors conditions in more than 200 county jails, teaches disabled prisoners about their rights, and investigates their allegations of abuse, the nonprofit says in a federal lawsuit.
It sued Victoria County and its Sheriff T. Michael O’Connor on June 2.
Victoria, the county seat, is 125 miles southwest of Houston.
All states have a federally funded watchdog, like Disability Rights Texas, a role created when Congress passed the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Act in 2000.
“Disability Rights Texas, as Texas’ designated Protection and Advocacy System, has the authority to have unrestricted access to all general areas of the Victoria County Jail, as well as the jail’s special mental health or forensic units,” the lawsuit states.
The nonprofit claims that since October 2015 it’s received several complaints from family members that Victoria County jailers will not give their relatives their mental health medication, which is worrisome, given the jail’s checkered past: Two inmates committed suicide in 2011.
After hearing from an inmate that jailers stripped him, strapped him to a chair for 18 hours and withheld his medication, despite knowing he was suicidal, the nonprofit says, its employee Elva Cardenas asked the sheriff’s office for the man’s jail records, which confirmed his story.
“The records indicate that the jail restrained the detainee in violation of a number of regulations. Specifically, on Aug. 4, 2015, the detainee was in the restraint chair after reporting he was suicidal for five hours and forty-eight minutes,” the complaint states.
“Then, on Aug. 5, 2015, the records indicate that the detainee was put in the restraint chair for nine hours and thirty minutes. The logs do not indicate that the restraints were checked or that the detainee was offered a bathroom or water on either occasion. The records support the detainee’s allegation that he was forced to urinate and defecate on himself while restrained.”
Cardenas demanded access to the jail on March 3 to investigate complaints and the sheriff’s office denied it, the nonprofit says.
It says it sent a letter to the county’s assistant district attorney Brendan Guy, who is not a defendant, which cited its federal authority to visit the jail.
Guy questioned its jurisdiction, and did not respond when it supplied more proof in correspondence, stating that Cardenas planned to enter the jail April 27, Texas Disability Rights claims.
A sheriff’s deputy blocked Cardenas from getting into the jail that day, the nonprofit says.
Texas Disability Rights seeks an injunction and a declaration that Victoria County’s stonewalling violates federal law.
It is represented by its staff attorney Ashley Barr in Austin.
The sheriff’s office had no one available to comment Sunday, a dispatcher said.  

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Valerie Ponton
5 years ago

Today is 8/21/816 And night before last a 19 year old inmate died while incarcerated in Victoria County Jail. I read many things that they checked on him every 15 minutes’, and blah blah blah. I know as well as most persons I have spoken with that have been incarcerated in the same jail. First words I here are lies, They are lying no one has ever witnessed them check on any inmate like that at all. Since August I have in the back of my mind that it will take a death in that jail to maybe change their sadistic habits. I cannot say anything about the deputies as the ones that have helped us out knew how to to calm a mentally ill person down as well as any others involved in many situations. So I must say that the responsible parties are the jailers and the Sheriff that does not do their job according to the Constitution of The United States. and abusing the restraint chair as punishment a violation of the 8th amendment. Much less the inhumane treatment of all the hours a person has had to be tied up in this chair. People die in these chairs. If the person listed above were to have a seizure as he a has epilepsy death and injury would have been a definitive result. Texas Commission on Jail Standards told me on phone that they could restrain a person for hours. My daughter called the Victoria County Jail and asked that same question and the person answering the jail phone said “As long as they want to”.
So now we have an inmate die in the jail just this week. Need to see if any autopsy results are posted. Will Victoria Co Jail make necessary changes now? Will this be swept under the rug with only sexual misconduct the only story finding it’s way into especially the Victoria Advocate newspaper. Journalism I am learning is edited and the government agencies i blame for such editing. We must report everything for this country to continue to be a honest democracy. Though our rights, {do we have any left?} Now they have to know what is in our physical body. BIGGEST TRAVESTY TO PERSONAL PRIVACY. Jails we are just learning that they have big problems. But we h ave a long way to go to fix this mess the past few generations left us with. I am up to it. These people are up to it. Are you? Just because someone is in the jail does not mean they are a criminal or even actually committed a crime. This person had no charges at all. So why treat someone this way? My only answer is ignorance on the part of the law. Any type of power can be corrupting. To be free we must speak out and continue to speak out. Thank you Texas for doing this. I stand behind you all the way. Hopefully you will save lives in many, many ways. God Bless you for doing the right thing.

Jason ybarra
5 years ago

They did this to me too

5 years ago

Its horrible I promise this is not a single incident. There are more victims. It will never stop. The department has a Gang-Like Code. They are thick as Thieves and will not Rat on each other and HAVE THE CYA DOWN TO THE T…

Trisha Behrens
5 years ago

Wow, I get in trouble for having my phone in my pocket; I wasn’t using it and I wasn’t lending it. But because I broke VCSO policy and i refused to ever once kiss anyone’s ass there i get the book thrown at me. I’m not excusing myself at all, but I knew and know I’m a damn good officer, I always have been always will be. Why? For 1 I. loved working in jails, and 2. I wasn’t there to judge anyone or be a jerk to impress co- workers, i was there to do my job to the best of my ability and as directed by TJS. I recall when an officer not only broke policy but he put inmates ands officers lives at risk, just to teach a new hire a lesson. He didn’t even get suspended much less a slap on the wrist. Of course not because he was an buttkisser. SMFH that admin had things so backwards it’s ridiculous. Drop good officer’s that don’t feel the need to kiss your rear to keep worthless one’s that do. Horrible.
If VCSO would get rid of the good ole boy system and start worrying more about how well the officer cares for inmates, instead of how much ass they kiss things like this wouldn’t be happening. I’m sure if Mike Henry is elected sheriff things will change. He’s not a rich guy that just wants a title but no responsibility. He’s a working class and compassionate and I’m sure instead of being on vacation all the time he’ll be in that jail getting things cleaned up.