Harris County

Inmates Die at a Faster Rate in Harris County Jail

Nov 10th, 2016 | By
Inmates Die at a Faster Rate in Harris County Jail

The Texas Commission on Jail Standards was tougher with Harris County Jail and their overcrowding issues at last week’s meeting. Probably because they’ve been getting “variances” since 2005. Variances: TEMPORARY exceptions to the regulations as in allowing Harris County to house people in a cell by adding “low riders” or other temporary beds.
While HCSO jail has to hold people who are not given bail or are assigned an unaffordably high bond, they are bound by law to ensure that those people are held safely and humanely. Not happening. We hope that the new sheriff, DA and judges will work together to stop the terrible dealths of people like Tamara Moe’s brother who die there while awaiting trial. Read on for a great Huffington Post piece.

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.”

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?”

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.”

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.

I found your website….and I am profoundly grateful.

Apr 2nd, 2015 | By
I found your website….and I am profoundly grateful.

July, 2016: “I found your website today, searching on behalf of a loved one who is incarcerated on a nonviolent drug offense and who has been in “administrative segregation” for going on 5 weeks now “for his protection” (he has been in isolation the entire time he’s been incarcerated, has untreated mental health issues, and has caused zero problems to the jail).  I wanted to let you know that I am profoundly grateful for the work that your organization does on behalf of one of our most vulnerable and neglected populations.

19th Century Harris County Jail: shouting to be heard

Jan 10th, 2015 | By
19th Century Harris County Jail: shouting to be heard

Finally! Houston Chronicle reporter James Pinkerton brings attention to an often overlooked subject that is so important to prisoners and their families: visitation at the Baker Street jail. Texas Jail Project has long wanted to shine a light on what one older father called 19th century conditions when he came to visit his son week after week, and couldn’t hear anything he said.
This excerpt is from our interview (see Inmate Stories) of an observant woman held 13 months there: “At Harris County Jail, the visitation rooms do not provide telephones; they have plexiglass windows with holes in them through which inmates and visitors have to shout at one another to be heard. It is extremely stressful to receive a visitor because it is so difficult to hear anything over all the shouting that is going on [around you]. I finally worked out a system with my uncles, who came to see me regularly, to bring paper and pen and we communicated by writing messages to one another, instead of trying to yell through the plexiglass…. Thus, even visitation was an unpleasant and stressful event ….” Despite her loneliness and despair during her long pretrial detention, when she saw how hard visitation was on family members, she told them to stop coming.

Young people die in our local jails

May 16th, 2014 | By
Young people die in our local jails

The numbers of people dying in county jails are adding up in 2014—and most recently, one of them was especially tragic. Only 18, Victoria Gray died in September in the Brazoria County Jail after that jail failed in so many ways, it will take a full investigation to sort that out and hold officers and officials accountable. Some, like Victoria, die of suicide while others die of what is called “natural causes,” and their deaths are not always investigated. (More have died in police custody or other facilities; we are only listing those in county jails.) Earlier this year, the list included Courtney Ruth Elmore, was 33 years old. She died February 11, 2014, around 7:00 a.m.. in the Brown County Jail. Was the staff trained to watch for respiratory failure? David Grimaldo, 18, a Perryton High School student died just hours after being booked into the Ochiltree County Jail. The Ochiltree County Sheriff Joe Hataway read from an autopsy report saying that the teen died of a medical condtion complicated by intoxication. Could it have been prevented?

Harris County: tougher punishment for poor/people of color

Mar 21st, 2014 | By

The new study about Harris County is revealing:
First-time felony offenders who were unable to post bond spent an average of 68 days in jail before having their cases resolved, the study showed. Those who remained jailed for drug possession – a common charge among Harris County jail inmates – were much less likely to win dismissals or deferred prosecutions than those able to afford to bail out, the study showed.
“Regardless of age, ethnicity or color of skin of over 90,000 people annually arrested, what generally determines the defendants’ fate is his or her economic status,” Wheeler argues in the report …

Instead of Travis County Jail: A Sobering Center

Mar 17th, 2014 | By
Instead of Travis County Jail: A Sobering Center

People + too much alcohol = public intoxication charges. The right formula? Not really.
Consider the results of those arrests: a. Pretrial detention in a jail, where anything can and does happen to a person sobering up.
b. a criminal record for people who are often otherwise law-abiding.
c. officers waste hours booking drunks instead of pursuing serious criminals.
Of all the arrests in a year, about 10% of them are for this Class C misdemeanor, crowding the jail cells. Houston and San Antonio already have sobering centers. This healthier alternative to the Travis County Jail is explored in an editorial from the Austin American-Statesman, March 12, 2014.