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#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.

Waller County Needs to Replace Outdated Jail

Apr 27th, 2017

The Houston Chronicle continues its ongoing coverage of problems in county jails that can and do affect thousands of Texans who are held in them before ever being “convicted criminals.” In this new story about Waller Jail, where Sandra Bland died, we see some of the many reasons a jail is classified as substandard. TJP’s director is quoted, saying,
“An updated facility would allow for better supervision and use of staff, but county commissioners often reject building new jails,” said Diana Claitor of the Texas Jail Project. “The public can also push back against funding such projects, not grasping how essential they are to the health of the community.”

“It’s easily put at the bottom of the list of what the county needs, and it should be at the top,” she said.

Travis County pretrial release system

Apr 26th, 2017

One reason Texas has so many people held pretrial in county jails— resulting in high numbers of deaths due to medical neglect and suicide—is that out of 254 counties, only 5 use risk assessment tools that give the county a good way to release people without cash bond. …

Turns out “Travis County’s risk-informed pretrial release system removes poverty as an impediment to release, creating a fairer system for defendants,” and at the same time, saves the county money and results in fewer future problems for defendants.

Help us help Texans today and every day

Mar 1st, 2017

The King, Bogany and Wills families, with historic roots in Polk County, all lost their sons in the Polk County criminal justice system. We were honored that they stopped by our office to express appreciation for the encouragement and information Texas Jail Project has given them.
They hope you will encourage us too, by donating to TJP, by check or Pay Pal. (See our donate button on this page) Continue on, to read the first hand accounts of the King family that are part of our Jailhouse Stories collection.

Non-Compliant Jails – TJCS Reports

Dec 18th, 2016

The Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) has four inspectors who conduct at least one inspection a year of the 245 county jails—to monitor whether they are in compliance with the Texas Minimum Jail Standards.* When jails are found to be out of compliance, the commission files a report which is used as the basis for inquiry at the quarterly hearings–attended by the Sheriffs–of the TCJS in Austin.
These reports are also available on the TCJS website but only until the jail gets back in compliance; then they are removed and the public cannot see, for example, if their jail was out of compliance last year and the reasons. Read on to see the 10 jails now out of compliance!

Inmates Die at a Faster Rate in Harris County Jail

Nov 10th, 2016

The Texas Commission on Jail Standards was tougher with Harris County Jail and their overcrowding issues at last week’s meeting. Probably because they’ve been getting “variances” since 2005. Variances: TEMPORARY exceptions to the regulations as in allowing Harris County to house people in a cell by adding “low riders” or other temporary beds.
While HCSO jail has to hold people who are not given bail or are assigned an unaffordably high bond, they are bound by law to ensure that those people are held safely and humanely. Not happening. We hope that the new sheriff, DA and judges will work together to stop the terrible dealths of people like Tamara Moe’s brother who die there while awaiting trial. Read on for a great Huffington Post piece.

Texas Justice Initiative: 7,000 Deaths in Custody

Oct 28th, 2016

The new well-designed website by Amanda Woog clarifies the way people die in custody in Texas, whether the person was held by police, by a local jail, or in a state prison. The first ever website of this kind points out the racial disparities as well as the high number of deaths of people unconvicted and uncharged. National attention to deaths in custody has been rising but most of all, the tragic death of Sandra Bland in Texas is shaking up public perceptions.
This Atlantic Magazine article praises TJI, pointing out that “Texas reflects a markedly high number of deaths in custody compared to national trends. The increased attention to suspicious cases such as Bland’s—which some see as representative of a deadly trend in over-policing of black citizens—magnifies the importance of this kind of tool, which allows anyone to study and analyze the data.”

Collin County investigated for firing gay jailer

Sep 1st, 2016

Welcome to the Collin County Jail, where it’s acceptable to harrass and threaten a person on your staff because they are gay. This great story by John Wright from the Texas Observer examines what happens when the command staff of a jail is fine with discrimination and intimidation and hatred. Officer Derek Boyd describes how officials in the sheriff’s department “threatened and interrogated him, outed him to his colleagues, prohibited him from speaking publicly about the matter, and forced him to undergo a polygraph test, which he passed. Other detention officers even refused to respond to Boyd’s radio calls, jeopardizing his safety.” Boyd says , “I got things like, I don’t belong here, God has a special place for me in hell.”

Four Suicides in Bexar Jail in Three Weeks

Jul 25th, 2016

Bexar County has received accolades for its reformed mental health care system, especially in terms of screening and pretrial services to divert people with mental disorders away from the county jail. That is well and good, but each time we’ve looked at the situation, two things come to light: a. only a small percentage of people with disorders are diverted and b. people actually held there are often neglected or not cared for properly. Whether or not these four individuals were ill, something is wrong when so many people manage to end their lives in such a short period. Texas Jail Project hopes the families of these individuals are treated with some respect and get some answers to their questions.