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How is Texas Jail Project helping during the COVID-19 crisis?

Apr 23rd, 2020 | Category: Featured Articles, TJP Newsletter, TJP Updates

Detainees wearing face masks

WE LISTEN AND CONNECT …

Families with resources and contacts: People in Dallas, Houston, Tyler, Victoria, San Antonio, Texarkana, and other towns are desperate for information about how county jails are protecting their loved ones from the virus. Remember no visitors are allowed inside since COVID-19!

“My husband has COPD. Can’t they let him out on bond during this? No one answers my calls, not the court-appointed lawyer or the jail medical. Can you find out?”

“My daughter is pregnant and they just keep her in solitary all the time. She wrote me & said she is so depressed, she’d rather catch Coronavirus than stay in there any more. Can you get the medical people to talk to me?”

“My daughter has schizophrenia and I know she is not getting her meds because she has not called me in 5 weeks! The jail won’t tell me anything! It’s like a black hole. I just want to hear my daughter’s voice and know that she’s okay. Please help.”

State officials with people on the ground: We are that essential bridge of information and resources between state agencies and impacted community members, taking information back and forth.

Civil rights and criminal case attorneys with our case work: communicating issues from those cases to inform the national and statewide efforts to file mass release motions, amicus curiae briefs and lawsuits against specific jails and to support their opposition to the governor’s order blocking release of individuals with past felonies—keeping many in jail who shouldn’t be there during this public health crisis.

 


 

Kinnu Gundu and Kevin Garrett hold Texas Jail Project banner

WE GIVE HOPE …

“I would not have had the courage to advocate for my son if it weren’t for you holding my hand. Us folk here in the country…we don’t have much…we don’t have the money to find him help. We live on disability. If it weren’t for you telling me what to do every step of the way, he might have died in that jail. You gave me hope! He’s home safe thanks to you!”

– Smith County mother, March, 2020.

“Ustedes son Ángeles que Dios ha puesto en nuestras vidas de verdad.” [You are angels that God has truly put in our lives.]

– Dallas County mother, 2020.

“The doctor took him off of suicide watch. Thank you for everything and my fiánce tells me to tell you thank you and that he really appreciates what you’re doing for him.”

– Victoria County fiánce, 2020.

Texas Jail Project needs you to step up and support us at this critical time. If you are able, please help your fellow Texans by donating some of your stimulus check by clicking here or by mailing a check to Texas Jail Project, 13121 Louetta Road #1330, Cypress TX 77429.

 


 

WHY IS TJP’S WORK MORE ESSENTIAL THAN EVER?

In this emergency situation, there is less regulation, less information, less access and less attention paid to the human beings inside the jails–the staff as well as the prisoners. So we are working hard to fill gaps. For example:

  • TJP partnered with Doctors for Change to co-author the earliest opinion piece (March 16th) on urgent public health measures that jails need to take to mitigate the risk of the spread of COVID-19, which led to a successful online petition followed by letters and affidavits from healthcare professionals to Harris county officials.
  • We are publicizing the daily tally of confirmed Covid-19 cases from county jails on our Facebook and Twitter.
  • When a whistleblower in the Dallas jail informed us about the lack of PPE – protective personal equipment – for people working there, we notified the Texas Commission on Jail Standards and connected the whistleblower with attorneys who subsequently file a lawsuit on behalf of the staff.
  • The Jail Commission has had to cancel all on-site inspections. The 39 state mental health clinics–Local Mental Health Authorities–have reduced services and casework. Without inspectors and caseworkers, our advocacy for people with unmet medical and mental health needs in county jails is being called on more than ever.

While Texas Jail Project is a small organization, communications are at full speed during this pandemic: we are emailing and calling and sending letters to court appointed attorneys, judges, doctors, civil rights lawyers, national legal advocates, local self-taught advocates, media and responding to loved ones in jails!

Immediate goals: alert officials about those at special risk; help families get information about their local jails; inform members of isolated communities what strategies others are using; secure releases wherever possible and provide advocacy tools and support to impacted communities.

Like most non-profits, TJP is receiving fewer donations. Can you make a one-time donation or a monthly donation? With your help, we can continue to work on behalf of the 60,000 people held on any given night in Texas Jails during this public health crisis.  Click here or mail a check to Texas Jail Project, 1712 E. Riverside Drive, Box 190, Austin TX 78741.

 

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