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In The News

Why Reimagining Safety Looks Different in Rural America

May 3rd, 2021

A Washington Post op-ed by Jasmine Heiss and Krishnaveni Gundu. April 29, 2021

In rural Texas….the rate at which poor, unconvicted people are locked up before trial has increased 22 percent in the past 10 months, rebounding sharply after an initial decline in response to the covid-19 pandemic. Across the state and nation, many sheriffs and other local elected officials are arguing that new and bigger jails are the unavoidable answer. But even before the rapid spread of covid-19 behind bars, we saw with painful clarity the frequency with which small-city and rural jails spread suffering and death.
The nonprofit Texas Jail Project has been documenting jail deaths, while working to reduce the harm caused in small counties where jails have usurped the role of emergency rooms and public health institutions.
Take the case of a 33-year-old woman who was in her second trimester while incarcerated for a probation violation in Brazoria County Jail in fall 2020. Instead of providing mandatory ob-gyn care and extra nutrition, the jail held her in solitary confinement. By the time her family received her alarming letters and reached out to advocates and state agencies for help, she had miscarried.



National Support for Tx Jail Project

May 3rd, 2021

A new story in Blue Tent says: In 2005, four Texas environmental activists participated in a demonstration against Union Carbide. One of the women eventually ended up spending almost five months in jail. The stories Diane Wilson heard there, and the hurdles that her friend, Krishnaveni (Krish) Gundu encountered while trying to advocate for her, inspired the women to do something for people incarcerated in jails across the state.

The result is the Texas Jail Project, a nationally recognized criminal justice reform organization with statewide and even national reach. TJP’s work includes acting as an unofficial citizens’ jail oversight commission throughout Texas, advocating for individuals incarcerated in Texas jails, and working with coalitions that have successfully pushed for legislative reforms. It has even forged working relationships with some Texas jail administrators.

As a result, the project has attracted the support and partnership of high-level national organizations, including Civil Rights Corps, the Vera Institute and The Bail Project. A spokesperson for The Bail Project, which developed a partnership with TJP in the summer and fall of 2020, said that Texas Jail Project does “incredible advocacy work, and we’re honored to be in this effort together.”



Central Texas Jails: Full Up at the Worst Possible Time

Feb 2nd, 2021

Instead of finding ways to lower populations in their county jails, central Texas judicial systems and district attorneys appear to be frozen, resulting in packed jails. In this story from Waco’s KWTX news, TJP’s communications director speaks about some of the issues involved—and how dangerous it is for prisoners held pretrial during the spread of a highly contagious disease.



TJP Points to the COVID-Jail-Community Connection

Jan 12th, 2021

This CNN story highlights the tragic death of Raul Rodriguez due to COVID-19. TX Jail Project has publicized his family’s outcry about not being notified of his illness. Also, TJP executive director Krish Gundu speaks about the spread of COVID from jails to communities and how “staff …coming in and out facilities and then mingling with their home communities, have been “super vectors” for the virus,” said Gundu.



Vague Jail Standards Have Real-life Consequences

Jan 10th, 2021
People in jail

In his excellent piece in the Houston Chronicle, reporter St. John Barnard-Smith quotes TJP’s communications director regarding standards (regulations) for jails. “Vague standards have real-life consequences,” said Texas Jail Project co-founder Diana Claitor, pointing to medical standards that permitted jails to use virtually any medical professional, including those with extremely limited training or expertise, as a facility’s chief medical official.



Saturday: A Listening Circle for our Communities!

Dec 15th, 2020

“BEARING WITNESS: A COVID-19 Listening Circle” will be this SATURDAY the 19th, from 1 to 3 pm, LIVE ON FACEBOOK. The event features letters, recordings, and intimate conversations with those recently released. Join us for any amount of time—and have a candle at hand.

This Listening Circle will be Texas Jail Project’s space to share and amplify the experiences of folks incarcerated in county jails during the pandemic, and to memorialize and honor those that have lost their lives or been affected by COVID-19.

 This event will be live streamed on Facebook at facebook.com/texasjailproject and recorded. By registering for this event, you are giving permission to Texas Jail Project to record.

We invite our community to share in our grief and bear witness with us. Our program will conclude with a tribute to the impacted, and invite participants to take action in their own communities.
PLEASE CONTINUE TO THE NEXT PAGE TO GET THE LINK TO REGISTER.



The First Cobos “Shining the Light” Award

Dec 10th, 2020

Texas Jail Project presented the first-ever Cobos Award, to be given annually to an individual in public service who demonstrates a commitment to the law and to the wellbeing of the community—and who does not hesitate to take action when witnessing something that is “just not right.”
The award is named for David M. Cobos, born and raised in El Paso County and a Midland justice of the peace and magistrate since 1997.
At a Zoom celebration on Friday, November 20th, TJP presented Judge Cobos with the first Cobos Award, an engraved flashlight—a symbolic reminder of how important it is to shine a light into all corners of local government and public service, to ensure health, justice and peace in Texas communities.
Our choice of Judge Cobos arose from an action he took in 2019 when he had questions about the death of Christopher DuBoise at the Midland County Hospital.



East Texas wife and TJP advocate protest in Tyler

Nov 30th, 2020

Smith County media is starting to pay attention, but when are county officials going to take action? In this CBS story, reporter Payton Weidman describes how veteran Chris McSwain, a 22-year veteran who sustained a traumatic brain injury during his service, has been deteriorating in the Smith County Jail for more than four months. His



El Paso detainees are paid $2 an hour to handle COVID victims

Nov 22nd, 2020

In this video news story from Newsy, Krish Gundu, executive director and co-founder of the advocacy group Texas Jail Project, spoke about the risk to these incarcerated people in El Paso being paid $2 an hour for moving bodies.
“We have a callous disregard for human life. … We think it’s OK to put them in these risky situations, while at the same time denying them access to testing and medical care and free phone calls with their families,” Krish Gundu said. 
“Is this what you would pay an essential worker who would be doing the job if you didn’t have an inmate to do the job?” said Gundu. “I mean, why the difference? If you’re treating them as if you’re making them do essential work, are they going to have access to the vaccines when they come on? Are they going to be one of the first people to get those vaccines? There is no equity in that conversation.”



Concern mounts for Texas jails, prisons as COVID-19 cases increase again

Nov 11th, 2020

"The pandemic has worsened everything about conditions in jails in Texas," said Diana Claitor, the co-founder and communications director of the Texas Jail Project......Claitor has been worried since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic about problems outlined in a new study published by the University of Texas at Austin on Monday.