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Trapped in Texas: Announcing 30 First-Person Stories of Pre-trial Detention

Jun 2nd, 2016 | By | Category: In The News, Lead Article

Fair Trials, www.fairtrials.org

June 1, 2016

Jailhouse Stories: Effects of Pre-trial Detention is a new, first-person voices project that reveals the crises in pre-trial detention in Texas, in the words of those affected most. More than thirty people detail the experiences they or their loved ones suffered—from bewilderment over months or years spent awaiting trial, to a lack of basic resources like adequate clothing, food and toilet paper, to death by medical neglect and preventable suicide.

Pre-trial Detention Affects Detainees

From the gravest damage—years awaiting trial, or denial of medication for diabetes or schizophrenia—to the commonplace, like extreme temperatures, inadequate clothing and lack of nutritious food, each person struggles to find help and information. Ultimately, the only conclusion is that the system based on punishment of people presumed innocent must be radically changed.

Visit Jailhouse Stories to read the words of Nicole Guerrero, forced to give birth on the floor of her cell to her baby daughter, who died shortly thereafter. Learn about Adan, who was denied mental health care for schizophrenia and put in solitary confinement instead, or Victoria Gray, a schizophrenic 18-year old jailed for violating probation by not taking her anti-psychotic medicine, who committed suicide after the jail itself refused to provide her with the medication or monitor her cell after her previous suicide attempts. CJ, a diabetic, saw his dosage of insulin arbitrarily changed by jail medical staff and suffered diabetic crises that brought him near death. These are just a few of the themes repeated again and again by different story contributors.

The trauma experienced by abuses suffered in lengthy pre-trial detention is not  singular. It’s a family event. Most people who seek help from Texas Jail Project are parents of inmates, their primary lifelines. Angel Rose, a mother on disability, tells how she sometimes goes without food in order to send commissary money to her son so he can get enough calories to eat by buying ramen noodles. Rashad describes how his girlfriend and children became homeless when his income disappeared from the family economy during his lengthy pretrial detention, and how he sees racism playing out in the criminal justice system.

Squalid Conditions

Inhumane conditions like these effectively prevent fair trials, since so many people who maintain their innocence nonetheless take plea deals to escape an interminable future awaiting a trial in the county jail. Many thousands of people make this choice each year.

In an ongoing effort to help to engage communities in self-advocacy, the Texas Jail Project invites people to send testimony of their experiences directly through the Jailhouse Stories site. We need the tellers of these stories to illuminate exactly how the crisis ripples outward from individual incarcerated people to our society as a whole, so it may be transformed.

Abe Louise Young is a poet, educator and consultant focused on story-based social change. Visit her on the web atabelouiseyoung.com.

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +44 (0) 7950 849 851.

For more on Fair Trials’ campaign to end unjustified pre-trial detention, please visit our campaign page

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