Jailhouse Stories: Effects of Pretrial DetentionJun 12th, 2014 | By Xica Media | Category: Pretrial Detention
Do you know that everyday Texans are losing jobs and being disconnected from their families while waiting for their cases to be processed? They are the “innocent until proven guilty” and their numbers are astounding: 60% of the people in your average Texas county jail haven’t yet been convicted of anything, but are kept behind bars for weeks and months or even years, often because they simply cannot afford to post bail.
That’s why Texas Jail Project started Jailhouse Stories: Effects of Pretrial Detention. Everybody—legislators, religious leaders, and the public—needs to know what happens to people’s lives when they are held for any period at all pretrial. The effect on individuals and communities is tremendous and changes must be made to reduce jail time for those charged with misdemeanors and minor felonies. Remember “charged with” doesn’t mean they are guilty!
Locking up people who are not yet convicted is causing needless damage and pain, and it’s almost entirely affecting poor, non-violent offenders. Once in the jail, their cases and their lives change for the worse, resulting in long-term costs to counties and communities. See the Houston Chronicle article about the shocking effects on Houstonians. We need to find smart alternatives to the lengthy pretrial detention common here.
Texas Jail Project is beginning to take road trips around Texas — collecting real-life accounts for our new campaign and documenting the way people and communities are damaged. By getting those stories to the media, legislators and county officials, we aim to educate all Texans and facilitate the creation of solutions that will keep low level offenders out of jail.
The more voices unite, the more change is possible–and so we hope you will share your story with us! Send your story to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Are Texas Jails Holding Too Many People Pretrial?
By Emily Ling, TJP Project Coordinator
The Montgomery County jail has recently made news in for its overcrowding issues, and articles like these from Grits for Breakfast and Houston Press’ blog have rightly emphasized that a significant part of the problem is due to high rates of pretrial detention. The August 2014 population report from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards states that 73.15% of inmates being held in Montgomery County (MoCo) are considered pretrial, meaning that they have yet to be convicted of anything and are presumably innocent until proven guilty. And yet those 812 pretrial inmates in MoCo this month are still being subjected to the difficult reality of being overcrowded in a jail with questionable conditions, often simply because they and their families are not able to afford the high bail amounts issued by the court.
In recent months as the Montgomery County commissioners have grappled with the issue of overcrowding at the facility, TJP has received increasing numbers of complaints from MoCo inmates about inedible food, issues with water at times being undrinkable, and most of all, lack of sufficient medical care.
The issue of incarcerating large numbers of people who have not been convicted is by no means unique to Montgomery County. Drawing from the TCJS population report from May 2014, TJP has identified the following 75 counties as having the highest rates of pretrial detainees in Texas. Of course some of the highest rates occur in very small counties where only a handful of inmates are housed, but many large and mid-sized counties also have alarmingly high rates of pretrial inmates – and anecdotal evidence from TJP’s intake of complaints suggests that at least some of those folks are spending many months and sometimes years waiting for their cases to be settled. The effects on their lives and the lives of their families are devastating.
These findings raise many questions about why so many people are being incarcerated in Texas without a finding of guilt — because court systems are so clogged with cases? Because counties are pursuing high arrest rates? The public should be asking those questions more loudly since we’re footing the bill for all of these inmates, and here at the Texas Jail Project we’re eager to hear from you if you or your loved one has experience in any of these high pretrial jails:
|COUNTY||% of Inmates Held PRETRIAL||TOTAL JAIL POPULATION|
|Fannin 2 (P)||70.79%||89|