The mission of Texas Jail Project is to empower Texas families to find services and solutions for incarcerated loved ones in crisis and to transform Texas county jails into more humane, healthier facilities.
Diana Claitor, Executive Director
Maria Anna Esparza, President
Greg Hansch, Secretary
Krishnaveni Gundu, Founding Board Member
Dr. Eric Tang
Matt Simpson, Advisory Member, Treasurer
Fran Clark, Advisory Member
TJP’s board members include men and women who are of various races and nationalities, and who come to the issue of jail reform from distinct political vantage points and personal experiences. The TJP Board includes professors, mental health advocates, policy experts, an attorney, a community organizer, a mathematician, and an advocate for trafficked women formerly incarcerated. Its diversity, however, runs much deeper than these array of vocations. We are also people of color, LGBTQ, and wfrom a range of religious and non-religious traditions.
Because TJP seeks to improve on our inclusiveness and to reflect the community we serve, all members of the board and staff have signed the following diversity statement:
—The TJP board and staff will actively seek new board members who reflect the community we serve, i.e. board members who are people of color, people with low income, people who identify as LGBTQ, people formerly incarcerated, and people living with mental conditions. We also seek a balance of gender and age and bilingual Spanish/English abilities, with a goal of ten board members by the end of 2017.
—To include more perspectives directly relating to the people we serve, TJP shall strive to include people of color and those formerly incarcerated in staff positions.
—The TJP board and staff shall encourage a more diverse group of volunteers from marginalized communities in all parts of Texas.
Current county jail procedures are devastating the lives and mental health of inmates, many of whom are inside for low-level, non-violent offenses. We seek to
- improve the treatment of the approximately 65,000 people—mothers, fathers, brothers, sons, sisters, daughters, and friends—who are incarcerated in Texas county jails on any given day;
- provide information, strategies and solutions to families and friends of loved ones enduring neglect and poor medical care in county jails;
- give voice to the prisoners and the loved ones of people in jails, to ensure that the problems are recognized and that officials are held accountable;
- write articles, contribute to news reports, raise awareness and support positive action from lawmakers, the media, and the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.
Our Issue Areas
- Special Populations
This program examines best jail practices with regard to persons experiencing mental illness, substance abuse, homelessness, veteran status, as well as people with LGBTQ identities and who are undocumented immigrants.
- Women and Pregnant Women in County Jails
The 247 Texas county jails hold about 400 pregnant inmates at any given time. This initiative works to ensure that they are not shackled during childbirth, and monitors conditions, including their medical and dietary needs, in accordance with HB 3653 and 3654. In 2015, we began work to educate lawmakers about implementation; HB 1140 was passed and signed into law, requiring a detailed survey of each jail’s policies and practices regarding pregnant women.
- Effects of Pretrial Detention
More than 60% of the people held in the average jail in Texas are pretrial detainees. TJP seeks to publicize the negative effects of that incarceration, as well as racial disproportionality of pretrial detention more often affecting people of color. Our collection of personal narratives at Jailhouse Stories: Voices of Pretrial Detention in Texas educates officials, community leaders and media about the negative effects of incarcerating people who could be out on bail or in diversion programs.
- Stop the Privatizing of County Jails
We support efforts to publicize the negative impact of privatization, and directly help individuals with family members suffering in facilities run by private companies.
Diane Wilson, a writer-activist and 4th generation shrimper, proposed action should be taken to help women in jail while she was still in the Victoria County Jail herself, in 2006. She was encouraged by Ann Wright, the nationally-known peace activist and retired U.S. Army Colonel. After she served her sentence, Wilson and two supporters, Houston activist Krishnaveni (Kinnu) Gundu and Austin writer/historian Diana Claitor decided to start an organization to call attention to how the conditions in the often over-crowded local lockups can permanently damage inmates, their families and the entire community.
Co-founders Diane Wilson & Diana Claitor wait to speak at a 2011 hearing about the dangers of nighttime releases at Harris County Jail.
TJP has also worked with various churches, the Texas ACLU, the Catholic Conference of Texas, the Hogg Foundation, Grassroots Leadership, the Texas Civil Rights Project and national groups such as the Rebecca Project, Lamda Legal, the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, and the Marshall Project in support of investigations of conditions of confinement.
TJP’s director and volunteers collect information by:
- attending the quarterly meetings and workshops of the Texas Commission for Jail Standards
- soliciting stories and input to be posted as “Inmate Stories” or included in Jailhouse Stories: Voices of Pretrial Detention in Texas
- speaking with jailers and administrators of county lockups
- engaging in dialogue with volunteeers and administrators of various non-profits and church groups who also work to improve conditions and facilitate programs in jails, especially for women.
- information on how to complain and where to complain
- a medical release form with an explanation and directions
- a habeaas corpus form for attorneys to petition the court to transfer a person who has been declared incompetent to stand trial to a hospital or medical facility
- tips on visitation and locations of jails
- lists of other organizations and government agencies that may be needed by families of inmates and inmates themselves.
Texas Jail Project is NOT a government agency. The official name of the group on the Secretary of State website is The Jail Project of Texas.