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Harris County Lawsuit: Bail Penalizes Poor People

May 25th, 2016 | By
Harris County Lawsuit: Bail Penalizes Poor People

“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.”

RIP Amy Lynn Cowling, 1977–2010

May 12th, 2016 | By
RIP Amy Lynn Cowling, 1977–2010

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.”

Inmate dies after Harris County jailhouse beating

May 6th, 2016 | By

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?”

A Pattern of Assaults & Deaths in Harris County Jail

Apr 1st, 2016 | By
A Pattern of Assaults & Deaths in Harris County Jail

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.”

Bail System Keeps Unconvicted in Texas Jails

Mar 26th, 2016 | By
Bail System Keeps Unconvicted in Texas Jails

by Lynda Frost, Austin-American Statesman, March 25, 2016
It seems like a simple series of events: Someone is arrested and charged with a crime. They have a hearing. The judge orders bail in order to either keep them off the street if they are considered dangerous or to increase the odds that they’ll show up for court. End of story.
What’s obscured by that simple and deceptive story is that the actual bail system in Texas — and nearly every other state — too often serves to punish poverty, exacerbate mental illness and burden the state with unnecessary costs while failing to make the public any safer.
It doesn’t have to be this way.

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.”