by Reagan Ritterbush, February 1, 2017, The Daily Texan In 2010, Amy Lynn Cowling, a 33-year-old mother, was arrested for an outstanding misdemeanors warrant. Upon arriving at the nearest jail, Cowling had to replace her normal medications with substitutes because her original medications were banned by the Texas jail system. While withdrawing from the drugs,
In The News
By Gabrielle Banks & St. John Barned-Smith, July 21, 2016, Houston Chronicle The lawyer for Sandra Bland’s mother said a former Waller County Jail guard told him under oath that he falsified entries on a jail log, indicating he checked on Bland in the hour before she was found dead when he did not. But the lawyer for Waller County,
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!
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.