All entries by this author

Austin: New Sheriff Should Support Inmate Programs

Feb 27th, 2016 | By
Austin: New Sheriff Should Support Inmate Programs

County commissioners and law enforcement across Texas often talk a good game about reducing recidivism and diverting people with mental illness. However, at the same time, many officials—and the jailhouse culture—erect barriers to programming that could help inmates while they are incarcerated. Romy Zarate says such programs can turn a life around. “I was probably in the county jail about four times. Without the programming, I was in and out,” says Zarate. “When I was in, I was planning where I would score when I got out; after the programming, I stayed out.”



Pregnant in Nacogdoches County Jail

Feb 25th, 2016 | By

Pregnant for the first time at 33, Alice* was seeing a doctor and committed to a healthy pregnancy. Although she had longstanding mental health problems and substance use, she was prioritizing the health of her baby during pregnancy. But when she was arrested and held in the Nacogdoches County Jail for seven weeks pretrial, she was denied prenatal care for weeks and had repeated problems obtaining her life-sustaining medicine. Emotionally distraught, she was placed in solitary and treated as a problem prisoner. Both Alice and her mother Sally, a schoolteacher, were threatened with retaliation for making complaints.



Sheriff slashes number of internal jail inspectors

Jan 24th, 2016 | By

Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman has cut the number of internal jail inspectors in half and disbanded a “proactive” team of internal affairs investigators, a move civil rights advocates, defense attorneys and Hickman’s political opponents criticized as a “step backward” that could cause more problems in an already troubled department.

Our Executive Director at TJP said in the article, “It sounds like the in-depth, complex kind of investigations of police misconduct won’t get done, and that’s extremely bad for all us,” said Claitor. “That’s the only way of digging deep.”



Larsen, Ling: Stop jail suicides and deaths – here’s how

Jan 6th, 2016 | By

Is Texas providing enough oversight to protect vulnerable people who are jailed, the majority of whom are still considered innocent in the eyes of the law? Despite concerns recently raised by state lawmakers, the answer clearly is, no.



Waco: Lawsuits and Violations in the Jack Harwell Jail

Dec 29th, 2015 | By
Waco: Lawsuits and Violations in the Jack Harwell Jail

TJP staff authored this Waco Tribune guest column about neglect, abuse, and death occurring in Waco’s privately run Jack Harwell jail. Here’s an excerpt: ” LaSalle Corrections is the for-profit company that runs the Jack Harwell Center for McLennan County.
‘We think they’re excellent operators and, unfortunately, sometimes things like this happen,’ said McLennan County Judge Scott Felton.
But that’s not what families with loved ones in that jail say.”



Bonding Behind Bars

Dec 2nd, 2015 | By

The Travis County jail is one of four nationwide — and the only in Texas — to allow new moms to breastfeed in custody.

“It’s in the interest of everybody to really assist a woman in that situation to rebuild her life and create a healthy home for her child,” said Diana Claitor, director of the nonprofit Texas Jail Project.



Calls for training, better cell checks follow Harris County Jail suicides

Dec 1st, 2015 | By
Calls for training, better cell checks follow Harris County Jail suicides

Diana Claitor, director of the Texas Jail Project, which advocates for inmates, said both city and county jailers need better pay and training, especially for performing intake screenings.

“If there’s better pay and more training with (a) focus on caring for inmates, we’d have more officers who were more concerned and more careful,” she said.



Fort Bend sheriff pushes back against criticism over jail suicides

Nov 30th, 2015 | By
Fort Bend sheriff pushes back against criticism over jail suicides

TJP director Diana Claitor spoke to Houston Chronicle reporter Emily Foxhall about the number of suicides in Fort Bend county’s jail. That jail in fast-growing Fort Bend currently holds 850 to 1,000 inmates on a given day.
“Of those incarcerated in county jails statewide, more than 60 percent have not been convicted yet,” said Claitor, and “if they cannot post bail, they must remain in an atmosphere that can be hostile, depressing and even threatening.” She went on to say that much of the time, people are treated in a generalized way: “They’re all the enemy.” Sheriff Troy Nehls defended his staff and said that the state of Texas had failed by not funding adequate mental health care.



Harris County Jail considered ‘unsafe and unhealthy’ for inmates, public

Nov 25th, 2015 | By
Harris County Jail considered ‘unsafe and unhealthy’ for inmates, public

Ahmed Elsweisy felt nauseated, 24 hours into every diabetic’s worst nightmare. He’d been arrested on a DWI charge and booked into the Harris County Jail early one morning in September without insulin – and nobody seemed to care. Ahmed Elsweisy had successfully managed his diabetes since being diagnosed as a child at age 11. But he almost did not survive his first and only arrest. Here he poses for a portrait during an interview in his attorney’s office Friday, Oct. 23, 2015, in Houston. (Continue/click through to see three excellent videos of Elsweisy and others in this outstanding story from the Houston Chronicle)



Voices from Solitary: Pregnant in Prison, Birth in Shackles

Oct 31st, 2015 | By

In 2008, the federal Bureau of Prisons passed a policy prohibiting the use of restraints on women in custody who are in labor, delivery or postpartum recovery. In 2009, Texas passed a law banning the use of shackles on incarcerated pregnant women during labor, delivery and postpartum recovery. But, as both the ACLU of Texas and the Texas Jail Project have found, for women in the state’s prisons, mental hospitals, and county jails, the law has not always been put into practice.