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

Jail Commission Meeting: Thurs. 2.7.19 Jail Commission Meeting: Thurs. 2.7.19

Each meeting starts at 9 am sharp, and ANYONE can attend! But if you want to make some comments during public input, allow time to find a parking place and the room, to put down your name and be ready to talk by 9:05. Meetings may run from 1 hour to 3 hours. Most meetings are held at the John H. Reagan Building, 105 W. 15th Street, 1st Floor, Room 120. HOWEVER, DURING THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION, THEY MAY HAVE TO CHANGE THE LOCATIONAT THE LAST MINUTE TO ANOTHER BUILDING SO CHECK THEIR WEBSITE. Continue to see link to their website.

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. 

Jail Reads Sends Books Jail Reads Sends Books

County jails are not required to have a library like state prisons are. And a lot of small to medium sized jails don’t have any books and only allow ones ordered from publishers or Amazon. So If your family can’t afford to buy them for you, you may go months with nothing to read or learn. Or you may only find tattered romance novels like our founder Diane Wilson found in the Victoria County Jail. So Jail Reads helps bring words and hope into the jails!

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.”