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Women and Jails

Harris County Jail: A Nutritional Survey of Pregnant Inmates

Aug 21st, 2017

Earlier this year, a 22 year old graduate student named Kristina Sadler, working on her Masters in Social Work at the University of Houston, found herself thinking about the plight of pregnant inmates in the county jails of Texas. Not prisons, but county jails where a majority of the population is pre-trial detainees. In particular, most women detainees are in there for minor misdemeanors related to poverty, substance abuse/possession or mental health issues. Rarely for violent crimes.

Pregnant in Nacogdoches County Jail

Feb 25th, 2016

Pregnant for the first time at 33, Alice* was seeing a doctor and committed to a healthy pregnancy. Although she had longstanding mental health problems and substance use, she was prioritizing the health of her baby during pregnancy. But when she was arrested and held in the Nacogdoches County Jail for seven weeks pretrial, she was denied prenatal care for weeks and had repeated problems obtaining her life-sustaining medicine. Emotionally distraught, she was placed in solitary and treated as a problem prisoner. Both Alice and her mother Sally, a schoolteacher, were threatened with retaliation for making complaints.

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.

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.

Investigate Sandra’s death!

Jul 19th, 2015
Sandra Bland

The Austin Chronicle asked TJP’s Executive Director what could prevent further tragedies like the death of Sandra Bland. ‘We need there to be more training of jailers to have the knowledge and temperament to take their role as caretaker very seriously – because the emphasis on security and regimented rules leads to jailers who do not pay attention to the person who may be sick or angry or mentally ill,” says Diana Claitor. “Jailers need to look after the people in their care as if each was a relative instead of viewing them as the enemy. And we need the jail and jailers to be thoroughly investigated each and every time a person dies of suicide or any death inside the jail itself …. Finally, we need independent investigations by someone other than the Texas Rangers, who are not transparent in the least and are extremely connected to the local law enforcement.”

Pregnancy Health Care Rights—CA & TX

Jun 12th, 2014

In California, an organization called Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC) is doing work similar to the work of Texas Jail Project and Mama Sana and Moms of Color Rising. They recently formed a committee of advocates to launch a new strategy for improving health care for pregnant and post postpartum women in California jails and prisons. Their goals are excellent and practical, and they also emphasize an important objective: a change in perception. They describe it as “Shifting the paradigm around who people think women prisoners are, and figuring out how to get legislative campaigns and other information to a larger public.”

Texas Criticized in UN Report on Shackling of Incarcerated Pregnant Women

Oct 5th, 2013

The international community is now reading about Texas in this new report on shackling in the U.S. Unfortunately. Some of the information is derived from research and observations by Texas Jail Project.

Women in local jails & mental disorders

Jul 20th, 2013

I remember a female warden of a Texas county jail telling me how much more difficult–”moody and emotional” –women were and that she’d rather deal with male inmates any day. She might consider this study by the Center for Gender and Justice that shows a huge percentage–75%–of the women in county jails having mental disorders.

Bosque County Jail Death Ruled Suicide

Jun 1st, 2013

April was 36 years old and 22 weeks along in her pregnancy when she was arrested and taken to the Bosque County Jail, on May 2nd. She died there May 4th. Even though her death has been ruled a suicide, her sister and other family and friendshave questions about how this could happen. As in all similar jail deaths, the Texas Rangers are investigating, but Texas Jail Project has concerns about that investigation. Please email help@texasjailproject.org if you have any information.

The Nurse in the Montague County Jail

Mar 18th, 2013

The young nurse working at the Montague County jail was recently charged with fraternizing with an inmate and smuggling tobacco to him. She works for a private contractor named Southern Health Partners: it’s a good bet that the pay from the contractor is low and the hours long. She isn’t working in ideal conditions and her patients aren’t always easy to deal with.
Now let’s look at the company: Southern Health Partners was contracted to provide medical care for the people held here. Since January 1, 2012 to last week, I counted 77 lawsuits filed against them, in states across the south. While nurses have to be held accountable, let’s hope that the county and the people of the county also keep a very close watch on how well this medical provider does their job in Montague County.