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In The News

Fort Bend sheriff pushes back against criticism over jail suicides

Nov 30th, 2015
Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls

TJP director Diana Claitor spoke to Houston Chronicle reporter Emily Foxhall about the number of suicides in Fort Bend county’s jail. That jail in fast-growing Fort Bend currently holds 850 to 1,000 inmates on a given day.
“Of those incarcerated in county jails statewide, more than 60 percent have not been convicted yet,” said Claitor, and “if they cannot post bail, they must remain in an atmosphere that can be hostile, depressing and even threatening.” She went on to say that much of the time, people are treated in a generalized way: “They’re all the enemy.” Sheriff Troy Nehls defended his staff and said that the state of Texas had failed by not funding adequate mental health care.



Voices from Solitary: Pregnant in Prison, Birth in Shackles

Oct 31st, 2015
People in jail

In 2008, the federal Bureau of Prisons passed a policy prohibiting the use of restraints on women in custody who are in labor, delivery or postpartum recovery. In 2009, Texas passed a law banning the use of shackles on incarcerated pregnant women during labor, delivery and postpartum recovery. But, as both the ACLU of Texas and the Texas Jail Project have found, for women in the state’s prisons, mental hospitals, and county jails, the law has not always been put into practice.



Inmate Advocates Relieved by Ruling on Phone Charges

Oct 26th, 2015
Jail telephone

San Antonio Express News By Mike Ward and St. John Barned-Smith Austin Bureau FCC Calls Rates ‘Egregious’ Prison advocates on Thursday hailed a Federal Communications Commission ruling that slashed “unconscionable and egregious” rates for telephone calls from jails and prisons, a move that could benefit thousands of Texas families with incarcerated loved ones. In Texas,



The Austin Chronicle Best of Austin 2015 – Best Justice for Mamas Behind Bars

Oct 9th, 2015
Austin Chronicle Best Of 2015

For the first time ever, Texas county jails will be required to report on how they care for pregnant inmates – to ‘fess up about food, bedding, and medical care. That’s thanks to hard work by the Texas Jail Project, the ACLU of Texas, and Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman. The three groups joined forces to protect pregnant mothers in county jails this legislative session by helping get HB 1140 passed. The law requires accountability, transparency, and solid data to improve the lives of mamas behind bars.



The Death Of Victoria Gray: How Texas Jails Are Failing Their Most Vulnerable Captives

Sep 16th, 2015
Victoria Gray

Just over a year ago, 18-year-old Victoria was found hanging from a bookshelf inside her isolated jail cell. An investigation into her death exposed that jailers, in direct violation of the law, failed to check on her nearly a dozen times and failed to contact a judge for days despite her mental health screening results. In honor of Victoria, Think Progress took a closer look at suicides in Texas jails and found a deadly and systemic pattern of neglect. “A lot of people don’t realize how much damage can be done to individuals in the county jails,” says Texas Jail Project’s Executive Director, Diana Claitor.



Expecting Care: The shameful truth about how pregnant women are treated in Texas county jails

Aug 19th, 2015
Illustration of woman in jail

Outside of the lockups, few know how pregnant women are treated. But for years, Diana Claitor, co-founder and director of the Texas Jail Project, has been trying to get a glimpse inside. Her approach is to work with inmates and families to navigate the system, instructing them on how to file complaints and get help when they need it. In the process, she’s learned a lot about how jails fail pregnant women.

One of the first calls Claitor remembers came in 2007 from a woman whose daughter had miscarried while in jail. She asked Claitor how she could recover the body of her grandchild.

“It was so sad and such a desperate outreach from an older woman who knew of no one to go to,” Claitor said. As word of her organization spread online, she began hearing from more and more women—an outpouring that is reflected in recent data.



Widespread abuse of pregnant inmates

Aug 1st, 2015
Hands on bars

At Texas Jail Project, we’ve always been disheartened by jail staff and officials who automatically assume that all complaints coming from a pregnant woman—or from any prisoner for that matter—are lies. As the authors of this interesting series state: "This notion—that prisoners, and especially women prisoners, are liars—permeates the dozens of cases we reviewed where prisoners suffered miscarriages, still-births, and even deaths."

They take a clear-eyed look at this negative attitude that shapes so much of the treatment of women. The stories are moving, the research solid, and their reporting reveals previously unknown forms of abuse, such as the Chicago jail’s practice of forcing women who are close to term to have induced labor.

In the course of their five-month investigation, RH Reality Check authors spoke with TJP’s director several times, and we are pleased to see their references to Texas Jail Project’s efforts on behalf of Texas women.



Screen To Screen: Bexar County Jail

Jul 28th, 2015
Man in jail

Diana Claitor, executive director of the Texas Jail Project, an inmate advocacy organization, said McAuliffe, Ibañez and Gravens are absolutely correct: video visitation should not replace in-person non-contact visits.

“There should be both kinds of visitation and they should definitely not eliminate face-to-face visitations for a couple reasons,” Claitor said. “One is that most people, or a lot of people, don’t relate as well to a video image, especially children. It’s very important for children to be able to see their parents and know they’re OK.”

Secondly, technology can be flawed and Claitor said she’s seen instances across the state where images and sound are flawed and visits are cut short when the system fails.

“This is a constant problem with their visitation and it causes an enormous amount of alienation and anger on part of the families,” Claitor said. “And, as the research shows, visitation is an extremely important indicator on whether people recidivate. It’s a very important part of incarceration whether it be jail or prison.”



Committee to hold hearing on jail, police issues in wake of Bland death

Jul 24th, 2015

“It’s their vulnerability, the fact lots of medical and mental problems occur in jail,” said Diana Claitor, of the Texas Jail Project, which advocates for inmates across the state. “When jails take custody of a human being, they’re constitutionally required to care and protect for them, and maintain pretty much constant supervision of them.”

Of the 24 suicides in the Harris County jail or jails in Waller, Liberty, Montgomery, Fort Bend, Galveston, Chambers and Brazoria county, jailers failed to conduct proper suicide screenings or observation checks in at least a third of them, according to state records.

“Someone doesn’t have to be actively suicidal to spiral downwards,” Claitor said. “There’s a huge emotional impact of being put in jail itself. If they have mental health issues, its even more urgent they be constantly examined and judged as to their mental and emotional state.”



Sandra Bland Case Shows Deficiencies in Jail Oversight

Jul 24th, 2015
Hands holding #justiceforsandy sign

When Sandra Bland was booked at the Waller County Jail, she told the staff she had attempted suicide before — a staff, it turns out, who had not been sufficiently trained on how to safeguard the well-being of inmates who are mentally ill, suicidal or pose a risk to themselves.

The commission has “made some serious efforts to try to increase training, but it’s still, in my opinion, extremely inadequate,” said Diana Claitor, executive director of the Texas Jail Project, which advocates for inmates.