In The News

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.



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.



Inmate Advocates Relieved by Ruling on Phone Charges

Oct 26th, 2015 | By

San Antonio Express News By Mike Ward and St. John Barned-Smith Austin Bureau FCC Calls Rates ‘Egregious’ Prison advocates on Thursday hailed a Federal Communications Commission ruling that slashed “unconscionable and egregious” rates for telephone calls from jails and prisons, a move that could benefit thousands of Texas families with incarcerated loved ones. In Texas,



The Austin Chronicle Best of Austin 2015 – Best Justice for Mamas Behind Bars: Texas Jail Project, ACLU of Texas, and MamaSana

Oct 9th, 2015 | By

For the first time ever, Texas county jails will be required to report on how they care for pregnant inmates – to ‘fess up about food, bedding, and medical care. That’s thanks to hard work by the Texas Jail Project, the ACLU of Texas, and Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman. The three groups joined forces to protect pregnant mothers in county jails this legislative session by helping get HB 1140 passed. The law requires accountability, transparency, and solid data to improve the lives of mamas behind bars.



The Death Of Victoria Gray: How Texas Jails Are Failing Their Most Vulnerable Captives

Sep 16th, 2015 | By
The Death Of Victoria Gray: How Texas Jails Are Failing Their Most Vulnerable Captives

Just over a year ago, 18-year-old Victoria was found hanging from a bookshelf inside her isolated jail cell. An investigation into her death exposed that jailers, in direct violation of the law, failed to check on her nearly a dozen times and failed to contact a judge for days despite her mental health screening results. In honor of Victoria, Think Progress took a closer look at suicides in Texas jails and found a deadly and systemic pattern of neglect. “A lot of people don’t realize how much damage can be done to individuals in the county jails,” says Texas Jail Project’s Executive Director, Diana Claitor.



Expecting Care: The shameful truth about how pregnant women are treated in Texas county jails

Aug 19th, 2015 | By

Outside of the lockups, few know how pregnant women are treated. But for years, Diana Claitor, co-founder and director of the Texas Jail Project, has been trying to get a glimpse inside. Her approach is to work with inmates and families to navigate the system, instructing them on how to file complaints and get help when they need it. In the process, she’s learned a lot about how jails fail pregnant women.

One of the first calls Claitor remembers came in 2007 from a woman whose daughter had miscarried while in jail. She asked Claitor how she could recover the body of her grandchild.

“It was so sad and such a desperate outreach from an older woman who knew of no one to go to,” Claitor said. As word of her organization spread online, she began hearing from more and more women—an outpouring that is reflected in recent data.



Widespread abuse of pregnant inmates

Aug 1st, 2015 | By
Widespread abuse of pregnant inmates

Judging pregnant women is easy to do, especially when they’re in jail. The way some people talk, you’d think that these women set out to a. get pregnant and b. get themselves thrown in jail. Worse still, some officers and officials go on to dismiss any incarcerated woman as immoral, irresponsible, and unconcerned about her baby.
Consequently, when she complains about a lack of food, water, and vitamins, or a lack of medical care, everything she says can be dismissed as a lie. But you already knew that all inmates lie, right?
In a new, in-depth investigatory series from RH Reality Check, we hear an LVN answer a staffer reporting a pregnant woman in extreme distress by saying, “You can go eyeball her and call me back if you want. She’s probably full of shit.” After an agonizing amount of neglect and trauma, that woman’s twin babies died.



Screen To Screen: Bexar County Jail

Jul 28th, 2015 | By

Diana Claitor, executive director of the Texas Jail Project, an inmate advocacy organization, said McAuliffe, Ibañez and Gravens are absolutely correct: video visitation should not replace in-person non-contact visits.

“There should be both kinds of visitation and they should definitely not eliminate face-to-face visitations for a couple reasons,” Claitor said. “One is that most people, or a lot of people, don’t relate as well to a video image, especially children. It’s very important for children to be able to see their parents and know they’re OK.”

Secondly, technology can be flawed and Claitor said she’s seen instances across the state where images and sound are flawed and visits are cut short when the system fails.

“This is a constant problem with their visitation and it causes an enormous amount of alienation and anger on part of the families,” Claitor said. “And, as the research shows, visitation is an extremely important indicator on whether people recidivate. It’s a very important part of incarceration whether it be jail or prison.”



Committee to hold hearing on jail, police issues in wake of Bland death

Jul 24th, 2015 | By

“It’s their vulnerability, the fact lots of medical and mental problems occur in jail,” said Diana Claitor, of the Texas Jail Project, which advocates for inmates across the state. “When jails take custody of a human being, they’re constitutionally required to care and protect for them, and maintain pretty much constant supervision of them.”

Of the 24 suicides in the Harris County jail or jails in Waller, Liberty, Montgomery, Fort Bend, Galveston, Chambers and Brazoria county, jailers failed to conduct proper suicide screenings or observation checks in at least a third of them, according to state records.

“Someone doesn’t have to be actively suicidal to spiral downwards,” Claitor said. “There’s a huge emotional impact of being put in jail itself. If they have mental health issues, its even more urgent they be constantly examined and judged as to their mental and emotional state.”