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TJP Fundraiser: “Southwest of Salem” screening + speakers

Nov 15th, 2019
Southwest of Salem poster

Join Texas Jail Project for a screening of this dramatic and inspiring film Tuesday, DECEMBER 3rd, 6:30 – 9:00 p.m. at UT’s Utopia Theater, followed by Q & A with Director Deborah Esquenazi and Austin attorney Keith Hampton.



We Support Small Bills That Make a Difference!

Jul 8th, 2019

By Diana Claitor, Executive Director (Austin American Statesman, July 7, 2019)

Gov. Abbott signed HB 1651 last month. It’s a small bill that won’t make headlines, but it will have a large effect on the health of more than 4,000 pregnant women incarcerated in Texas county jails each year. Not to mention the health of their unborn offspring. 

Texas Jail Project, an Austin nonprofit that works to improve conditions in Texas’ 241 county jails, presented information and stories to legislators during the session. About veterans needing mental health care, jailer training, PR bonds, and collection of demographic data on inmates. However, much of our work focused on the unique vulnerability of pregnant inmates.



Making Jails Safer: TJP at the 86th Session!

Feb 18th, 2019

With our small staff at Texas Jail Project, it’s not easy, but we are working hard to support several house bills for the current 86th legislative session—on subjects ranging from care of pregnant women to training of correctional officers to the oversight of the Texas Jail Commission! Rep. Celia Israel filed HB 1601, Rep. James White filed HB 1553, and Rep. Mary González filed HB 1651.
Now ANNIE’S LIST has tweeted a big national shout out to Rep. González: @RepMaryGonzalez’s HB 1651 would require the Commission on Jail Standards to adopt reasonable rules and procedures re: the use of restraints on pregnant prisoners. #txlege
Read on for more bills that will affect the treatment of the 1,000,000 people booked into county jails each year in Texas. (Photo is of Rep. Mary González)



The Jail Commission’s Report Cards

Nov 9th, 2018

by Kevin Garrett, November 6, 2018
Our county jails are supposed to be holding people in safe and healthy conditions, but that’s not the case. In my experience, I often felt as if guards were more concerned with how clean the pod was rather than if an inmate was seriously ill and needed help.
The main oversight of jails actually has little to do with health care, however. And there are only five inspectors from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards tasked with inspecting the 241 county jails spread over 268, 000 square miles. Violations cover a wide range, from a lack of hot water to no documentation of suicide prevention training for staff. 



We are answering more critical calls and we need your help ….please!

Sep 28th, 2018

Our months of advocacy resulted in a Texas family’s loved one being moved to a psychiatric hospital after 7 months in an isolation cell. Her sister (left) met with TJP’s director in person for the first time this month. Wendolyn Lacy says,
“I am speechless—WE ARE SO GRATEFUL. We understand we can say thanks all day, but donations are what you guys need to keep y’all going and help folks like my sister.”

Please donate today! New: Donate in the name of a loved one or a person who values justice for all. We will place his/her name in the new “Texas Jail Project Honor Roll” on our front page.



Could this baby’s death have been prevented?

Jul 20th, 2018
Child's memorial with flowers

In this new story from WFAA, top notch reporting reveals what happened to Shaye Bear as well as poor medical care for many pregnant inmates in Texas county jails. Tanya Eiserer and her team also expose punitive attitudes and blatant lies by Ellis County. The work of Texas Jail Project and observations from TJP’s director Diana Claitor provide context. Claitor commented that one serious problem is that many officers’ first reaction to an inmate’s complaints is that anything she says is a lie. But if the case of a pregnant inmate, another life is at stake if the jailer’s wrong, she said.

“They’re not always lying,” she said, referring to pregnant women.

Claitor says she’s received at least three complaints about the Ellis County jail – all of them involving pregnant inmates. Eiserer goes on to discuss how many women suffer in jails without any accountability.



Texas Jail Project is proud to announce that the Hogg Foundation is funding a two-year Peer Policy Fellowship at TJP!

May 11th, 2018

Great news for our advocacy for people experiencing mental illness/substance abuse issues and involved in the criminal justice system! The Hogg Foundation is funding a position for “a Peer Policy Fellow who brings direct experience into the conversations about mental health, addiction, and criminal justice reform.” The mentor will be the renowned Dr. Lynda Frost, formerly associate director of the Hogg Foundation. With this position, our work and the lived experience of a peer policy fellow will advance important issues and increase awareness of stakeholders and the public.
Over the past 8 years, more than 75% of the emails and calls to our group have been complaints and cries for help regarding people experiencing mental illness while incarcerated in county jails. That category often includes pregnant women, veterans and people who are also ill with physical illnesses or disabilities. While some jail staff are trained in how to treat people living with mental illness, many officers are not and the rapid turnover in jail staff doesn’t help.



Bail roulette: how the same minor crime can cost $250 or $10,000

Sep 20th, 2017

Depending on where you are, bail for a minor misdemeanor can vary from $250 to $10,000 and as they say in this article, “Decisions can vary widely depending on a defendant’s race and the judge they see.” Sound arbitrary and unfair? You got that right. Many of 65,000 people sitting in Texas county jails tonight are there just because they or their family does not have the money for bail and that bail may be high because of the color of their skin. And those thousands of unconvicted people, charged with nonviolent crimes, are often locked in those cells with violent offenders. This Guardian story compares the wildly different bails set for minor charges in California and Florida, but the same is true in the great state of Texas.



#SandraBlandAct is good despite the many misses

Aug 9th, 2017

Grits for Breakfast blogger Scott Henson makes the point that reforms and real oversight of jails must be informed by knowledge and experience: “Grits would rather Texas Commission on Jail Standards be given investigators to review the ~101 jail deaths per year themselves instead of appointing another law enforcement agency. Other local agencies won’t typically have experience performing investigations in a correctional institution, which is a different kettle of fish from investigations in the free world.”
Texas Jail Project frequently has to explain how different that kettle of fish is in discussions with advocates and lawmakers who don’t have experience with carceral settings.



Nathan Green tragedy in Slate magazine article

Jun 22nd, 2017

TJP highlighted the tragic death of Nathan Green from the first moment we heard from his loving family in Livingston, Texas. It was inconceivable that a healthy man could contract TB in the jail and not be treated or his family notified until he was unconscious in a local hospital. Now Slate, a national online magazine, found his story through our website “Jailhouse Stories: Voices of Pretrial Detention in Texas” and interviewed the family to feature in their article on deaths in custody. (go to next page for Slate link & story)
Texas Jail Project has come to know Nathan’s family and other Livingston families who have lost loved ones to the Polk County criminal justice system. We are proud of how they are pursuing justice like they did at the recent legislature and are now doing in the courts. The family keeps Nathan’s light shining.