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Posts Tagged ‘ Texas Commission on Jail Standards ’

Stop the Suicides: Monitor Jails Properly

Feb 12th, 2021

Before he killed himself in his solitary cell the Red River County jail in May of 2019, Christopher Cabler wrote a note that said, “I couldn’t be alone anymore—I’m tired of them telling me to do it that’s all they ever say do it do it do it so f*** I’ll do it! All I wanted was to be able to talk to somebody.”



“Texas Disguising Jail Deaths” story in Prison Legal News

Dec 21st, 2020

by Diana Claitor, TX Jail Project communications director.

In 2012, a 53-year-old Black woman named Edwinta Deckard was arrested on a misdemeanor theft charge and held in the Nacogdoches County Jail where she died after three days. Her death was an ordeal of dehydration and trauma, as repeated bouts of diarrhea were ignored by jail staff, and her condition spiraled downward. Cellmates begged jailers to get her medical help, and toward the end they witnessed jailers manhandle her as she lay unconscious.

The awful details of her rough treatment came out when two of the jailers were indicted for criminally negligent homicide, and a $30 million wrongful death lawsuit was filed. However, charges against the jailers were mysteriously dropped when Visiting Judge Guy Griffin signed an order to quash the indictments against the two jailers, and a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit.

Since this was a death in custody, or DIC, Deckard’s death was required by law to be reported to the state, and as such, the details and summary would be officially recorded.

However, that didn’t happen. There’s no record of her death in the custodial death database at the office of the Texas Attorney General (AG). Thus, neither the jail, the county sheriff, nor Nacogdoches County was held accountable. Not reporting a death in custody is a violation of a statute and could have resulted in the sheriff being charged with a class C misdemeanor, but by the time I discovered that Deckard’s death had never been reported, the violation was past the two-year statute of limitations.



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.



Pregnant Women in Texas County Jails

Dec 1st, 2018

Each month Texas county jails tally the number of pregnant inmates and report that to the Jail Commission. Some are only held there a few days, but others may be incarcerated for weeks and months and a number will deliver their babies in local hospitals while in custody.



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. 



#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.



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!



Lawsuit Reveals Shocking Abuse in Victoria County Jail

Jun 7th, 2016

We tend to think that there is someone holding jails accountable for how they treat people with mental disorders, but this new lawsuit by the watchdog group, Texas Disability Rights, proves that terrible things are still happening and that jails have to be sued to make any changes. Since this lawsuit was filed in June, Texas Jail Project has received more complaints about Victoria County Jail, including one from a mother of a man who has mental disabilitiies and a serious phyical illness that is not being treated. When will the Texas Commission on Jail Standards take action to transform this sick jail?



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.



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.