Bexar County has received accolades for its reformed mental health care system, especially in terms of screening and pretrial services to divert people with mental disorders away from the county jail. That is well and good, but each time we’ve looked at the situation, two things come to light: a. only a small percentage of people with disorders are diverted and b. people actually held there are often neglected or not cared for properly. Whether or not these four individuals were ill, something is wrong when so many people manage to end their lives in such a short period. Texas Jail Project hopes the families of these individuals are treated with some respect and get some answers to their questions.
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Each meeting starts at 9 am sharp, and anyone can attend! You yourself can speak during public input, which is at 9:05 sharp. It’s worth noting that the Texas Commission on Jail Standards is NOT all powerful and cannot direct jails in every aspect; it actually only has limited authority over how a sheriff runs his jail. There is a long list of standards that the inspectors check out when they inpect the jails, but few of them involve treatment of the people being held. And the legislature has not given the Commission enough inspectors: only 4 to inspect some 245 jails in our vast state!
Click “continue” for more about the public meetings and what TCJS does.
Texas Jail Project receives hundreds of emails, phone calls, letters and website messages each year. Here is a sample of ones thanking TJP for help given to people in jail and their loved ones. This email is from the Tyre family of Ft. Worth, in 2015:
“Emily, I am sending you this to inform you that our son Zach is home with us. His health is improving every day. Our family would like to sincerely thank you for your concern regarding his treatment during his incarceration at Tarrant county correctional facilities. I am very grateful to you and to all those who advocate for our sons, daughters and loved ones …”
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?
The international human rights organization Fair Trials published a profile of our Jailhouse Stories project today. We are glad that people across the world will learn about inhumane conditions in Texas jails–and learn about them in the voices of regular people. It’s a global movement!
From his wife and the mother of his little girl: “Miss and love ya! Greg was a good friend, a loving father, a talented surfer, painter, and had a heart of gold. My husband battled mental health issues and as we all know Texas cut the budget for mental health a huge amount…”
“Texas’ most populous county jails misdemeanor arrestees who can’t afford bail, an unconstitutional “wealth-based” system that leaves poor people languishing behind bars, an inmate claims in a federal class action.” We already knew about a lot of the inequities in the court system in Houston from the Project Orange Jumpsuit report of 2014, but now we know more. And this lawsuit demonstrates that people are not going to take it any more. ODonnell says in her lawsuit “Harris County’s detention system is unconstitutionally rigged against poor people because magistrate judges set their bail with no consideration of whether they can afford it.”
From Amy’s mother, Vicki: “Her favorite flower was tropicana roses. She loved cats alot and she loved family memoriablia—always holding onto anything to do with the family. She had a thing with goodie bracelets and bows in her hair always.
Her favorite drink was Dr. Pepper as her father worked at the Dr. Pepper plant that was in Mt. Pleasant and Mt. Vernon for like 25 years, until he passed away in 2005.
Her favorite color was purple, and one year she decorated a Christmas tree all in purple. That is why at her funeral last month, we did a purple Christmas tree—since she missed this Christmas and died right afterwards.”
Diana Claitor, executive director of the Austin-based Texas Jail Project, said the circumstances surrounding Brown’s death made her question whether Harris County jails were adequately staffed and supervised. Claitor said Texas county jails generally have a high employee turnover rate.
“But certainly in holding cells where … a lot of different people (are) held together, there should be a lot of supervision,” Claitor said. “And especially if they have video, why are they not keeping up with the situation better?”
People are dying while awaiting disposition of their cases in Houston.
“Ellis and Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, another critic of the bail system, have said nonviolent offenders – especially those arrested for misdemeanors – should not be jailed while awaiting a trial.”