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Voices of Pretrial Detention in Texas

Aug 22nd, 2016 | Category: Uncategorized

Jailhousestories.org, a collection of stories from families and individuals across Texas, has been made possible by a generous grant from Public Welfare Foundation.

In their own words, people across Texas describe 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.

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 affected—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 will challenge 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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4 years ago

As an advocate for TDCJ and Comal County inmates, I am shocked and appalled by the conditions and inefficiency in the Texas Judicial System. The general public is clueless to the inhuman treatment to incarcerated people in Texas. Mental health is ignored. Complacency is astounding and unacceptable. A friend has been in Comal County jail since September 2016 awaiting trial. His attorney states his charges may be dismissed. Court date has been reset multiple times. Is it true that the court appointed attorney is paid $300.00 each time the court date is reset? Seems like there is no incentive to proceed in a timely manner. I also see that justice is not primary goal. Winning the case and extreme punishment is victory for the DA. If a county inmate’s charges are dismissed after he has spent at least a year and a half in jail, what compensation is he awarded? He has lost his job, house, self worth, Family etc.
conclusion: The guilty rich person is treated much differently than the indigent innocent person
Thank you for you program and listening to my frustrations.

Mike Booth
3 years ago

I have just learned that a friend who was in custody at an unknown Texas Prison died. I don’t know when this occurred and I don’t know which prison he was assigned to. I am attempting to locate his grave. His name is James Wiley and he was born around 1945. Do you have any suggestion as to where to look or whom to contact?

Thank You for your assistance.

Diana Claitor
1 year ago

I’m Diana Claitor from Texas Jail Project. I want to draw attention to an issue at some jails and hope that Dr. Porsa in particular will note this concern. Some jails create a big obstacle for families trying to ensure medical care for loved ones who are incarcerated, most of whom are pretrial. That obstacle is their refusal to allow an inmate to sign a medical release form which allows his or her parent or spouse to communicate with the jail’s medical provider about medical conditions and medical history of that inmate.

Recently, three families have reported to us about experiences at the Taylor County Jail. One Abilene mother asked the nurse in charge to provide a medical release form to her son, who has an extensive history of both physical and mental conditions. If he signed , his mother could ask questions and provide information to medical staff, just as she does with the LMHA in Abilene. The nurse told her no, a medical release form has to come from a lawyer.
That is a lie, plain and simple, as medical release forms are in use in Texas jails, prisons, mental health clinics and facilities like UTMB, without a lawyer being involved. For 12 years, Tx Jail Project has offered a downloadable medical release form on our website texasjailproject.org that families use when the jail fails to provide one and they have worked. But in this case, the lie was firmly stated, convincing a worried mother that there was nothing she could do, even though she had serious concerns about her son’s confusion and his multiple conditions.
Another parent, an RN living out of state was told by that medical staff they won’t acknowledge a medical release because they wouldn’t know who they were talking to on the phone! Nobody at an agency or facility anywhere else in Texas has said this was a reason not to recognize a medical releases or speak to families. We know of incarcerated people with asthma or heart disease and we also know of people with severe mental illness who may not be able to communicate their medical needs during this pandemic. If a person’s family can’t check on them in these circumstances, that incarcerated man or woman may suffer permanent injury or death.

This is a real risk. Another relative reported, for example, that they couldn’t get information on the care of their partner who has brain cancer and the Taylor County jail nurse’s response was “we do not have the medical release forms and we don’t know what they are.”
In the past, we have discussed the problems created by jails refusing to acknowledge medical releases with TCJS, and I was told it was the jail’s prerogative. But we believe that since TCJS does provide guidance on best practices in various areas, that they should in this area, especially now with COVID-19 throughout our jails, that use of medical releases should be encouraged, to ensure the free flow of health information. We hope that TCJS will consider this issue and when it comes to Taylor county jail, ask their medical staff about the various, arbitrary reasons they deny releases.