The Jail Commission’s Report Cards

Lead Article

The Jail Commission’s Report Cards

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. 

Featured Articles

Pregnant Women in Texas County Jails Pregnant Women in Texas County Jails

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.

Why is it important to differentiate between county jails & prisons?

You’re watching the news, and the reporter solemnly states, “William Larcenous will be spending the rest of his life in jail.” Or describes Mary Doe languishing in prison waiting for trial.

That’s not going to happen! Why?

 “Jails” and “prisons” are not the same thing. We use the terms interchangeably—and incorrectly. JAILS are run locally and most of the people held there are NOT yet convicted. The length of time people stay in jails varies from 1 day to many months. PRISONS confine people who are convicted and sentenced to a certain amount of time, usually at least a year.*

Using these terms accurately will improve public awareness of the large percentage of people still innocent—pretrial—in their local jails. It will also increase understanding of how the criminal justice system works. To ensure higher quality media coverage, reporters and commentators need to make the distinction plain. 

Chaplain Describes Jails’ Treatment of Families Chaplain Describes Jails’ Treatment of Families

Deacon Bob spoke truth to the Commissioners and staff at the quarterly meeting of the Jail Commission. One of his important points: “It appears that the sheriff and local staff have little concern for families of those incarcerated and the important role they play. These sheriffs seem to forget they are elected by those in their community, who may have a loved one in their jail. I hear it said many times by families that feel like they are being treated as though they have committed a crime, as well. I realize that public safety is top priority for the county jails, but families can and should be treated with respect. Each of us were created in God’s image and likeness.”

Habeas Corpus

If your loved one was found incompetent to stand trial … If your loved one was found incompetent to stand trial …

There is a legal filing to make sure a person found incompetent is hospitalized or removed from the jail. If your loved one has been found incompetent to stand trial due to mental disability but has continued to be held in jail without treatment, the person’s lawyer can file a Writ of Habeas Corpus with the court that requires the county to provide him/her with appropriate medical care—in other words, send them to a hospital. Once the court grants the Writ, the Sheriff must comply. Go to next page for the Writ, which you can download.

Pretrial Detention

Voices of Pretrial Detention in Texas Voices of Pretrial Detention in Texas

“Sharing my story might not make it more safe for myself, but I would like to make it safe for someone else.” says John Brown, who was jailed at Dallas County Jail for two and a half years while awaiting trial. His and other stories reveal what happens to unconvicted people held in jails, mostly because they cannot afford the bail—a practice outlawed in many developed nations.
Last year, Texas Jail Project launched a website, “Jailhouse Stories: Voices from Pretrial Detention in Texas.” Collected over a two-year period, these powerful stories document a pattern of mistreatment and poor conditions experienced by those incarcerated in county jails while pretrial—innocent in the eyes of the law and awaiting their day in court.

Families Speak Out

“Without you guys, I’d have been totally lost!” “Without you guys, I’d have been totally lost!”

March 2018: “When my relative was in the county jail (Central Texas), without you guys I’d have been totally lost! Diana wrote me many emails and she even called the jail administrator to find out why I wasn’t being allowed to visit my loved one who was very sick while in that jail for months. Also Texas Jail Project has an awesome board member named Maria Anna Esparza who talked to me about her experiences with a loved one held for years in a county jail and with mental hospitals—sometimes we still talk and keep up with each other. Diana spent several weeks helping me convince my attorney to file a writ of habeas corpus to get my son out of that jail. In about a week, that got my loved one transferred to a hospital.”