Lead Article

The Jail Commission’s Report Cards

Nov 9th, 2018 | By
The Jail Commission’s Report Cards

by Kevin Garrett, November 6, 2018
Our county jails are supposed to be holding people in safe and healthy conditions, but that’s not the case. In my experience, I often felt as if guards were more concerned with how clean the pod was rather than if an inmate was seriously ill and needed help.
The main oversight of jails actually has little to do with health care, however. And there are only five inspectors from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards tasked with inspecting the 241 county jails spread over 268, 000 square miles. Violations cover a wide range, from a lack of hot water to no documentation of suicide prevention training for staff. 



We are answering more critical calls and we need your help ….please!

Sep 28th, 2018 | By
We are answering more critical calls and we need your help ….please!

Our months of advocacy resulted in a Texas family’s loved one being moved to a psychiatric hospital after 7 months in an isolation cell. Her sister (left) met with TJP’s director in person for the first time this month. Wendolyn Lacy says,
“I am speechless—WE ARE SO GRATEFUL. We understand we can say thanks all day, but donations are what you guys need to keep y’all going and help folks like my sister.”

Please donate today! New: Donate in the name of a loved one or a person who values justice for all. We will place his/her name in the new “Texas Jail Project Honor Roll” on our front page.



Could this baby’s death have been prevented?

Jul 20th, 2018 | By
Could this baby’s death have been prevented?

In this new story from WFAA, top notch reporting reveals what happened to Shaye Bear as well as poor medical care for many pregnant inmates in Texas county jails. Tanya Eiserer and her team also expose punitive attitudes and blatant lies by Ellis County. The work of Texas Jail Project and observations from TJP’s director Diana Claitor provide context. Claitor commented that one serious problem is that many officers’  first reaction to an inmate’s complaints is that anything she says is a lie. But if the case of a pregnant inmate, another life is at stake if the jailer’s wrong, she said.
Ironically, Claitor co-authored a Dallas Morning News editorial just 4 years ago, about the tragic death of another baby, in the Wichita Falls County Jail. Read on for that.



Texas Jail Project is proud to announce that the Hogg Foundation is funding a two-year Peer Policy Fellowship at TJP!

May 11th, 2018 | By

Great news for our advocacy for people experiencing mental illness/substance abuse issues and involved in the criminal justice system! The Hogg Foundation is funding a position for “a Peer Policy Fellow who brings direct experience into the conversations about mental health, addiction, and criminal justice reform.” The mentor will be the renowned Dr. Lynda Frost, formerly associate director of the Hogg Foundation. With this position, our work and the lived experience of a peer policy fellow will advance important issues and increase awareness of stakeholders and the public.
Over the past 8 years, more than 75% of the emails and calls to our group have been complaints and cries for help regarding people experiencing mental illness while incarcerated in county jails. That category often includes pregnant women, veterans and people who are also ill with physical illnesses or disabilities. While some jail staff are trained in how to treat people living with mental illness, many officers are not and the rapid turnover in jail staff doesn’t help.



Bail roulette: how the same minor crime can cost $250 or $10,000

Sep 20th, 2017 | By
Bail roulette: how the same minor crime can cost $250 or $10,000

Depending on where you are, bail for a minor misdemeanor can vary from $250 to $10,000 and as they say in this article, “Decisions can vary widely depending on a defendant’s race and the judge they see.” Sound arbitrary and unfair? You got that right. Many of 65,000 people sitting in Texas county jails tonight are there just because they or their family does not have the money for bail and that bail may be high because of the color of their skin. And those thousands of unconvicted people, charged with nonviolent crimes, are often locked in those cells with violent offenders. This Guardian story compares the wildly different bails set for minor charges in California and Florida, but the same is true in the great state of Texas.



#SandraBlandAct is good despite the many misses

Aug 9th, 2017 | By
#SandraBlandAct is good despite the many misses

Grits for Breakfast blogger Scott Henson makes the point that reforms and real oversight of jails must be informed by knowledge and experience: “Grits would rather Texas Commission on Jail Standards be given investigators to review the ~101 jail deaths per year themselves instead of appointing another law enforcement agency. Other local agencies won’t typically have experience performing investigations in a correctional institution, which is a different kettle of fish from investigations in the free world.” Texas Jail Project frequently has to explain how different that kettle of fish is in discussions with advocates and lawmakers who don’t have experience with carceral settings.



Nathan Green tragedy in Slate magazine article

Jun 22nd, 2017 | By
Nathan Green tragedy in Slate magazine article

TJP highlighted the tragic death of Nathan Green from the first moment we heard from his loving family in Livingston, Texas. It was inconceivable that a healthy man could contract TB in the jail and not be treated or his family notified until he was unconscious in a local hospital. Now Slate, a national online magazine, found his story through our website “Jailhouse Stories: Voices of Pretrial Detention in Texas” and interviewed the family to feature in their article on deaths in custody. (go to next page for Slate link & story)
Texas Jail Project has come to know Nathan’s family and other Livingston families who have lost loved ones to the Polk County criminal justice system. We are proud of how they are pursuing justice like they did at the recent legislature and are now doing in the courts. The family keeps Nathan’s light shining.



Waller County Needs to Replace Outdated Jail

Apr 27th, 2017 | By
Waller County Needs to Replace Outdated Jail

The Houston Chronicle continues its ongoing coverage of problems in county jails that can and do affect thousands of Texans who are held in them before ever being “convicted criminals.” In this new story about Waller Jail, where Sandra Bland died, we see some of the many reasons a jail is classified as substandard. TJP’s director is quoted, saying,
“An updated facility would allow for better supervision and use of staff, but county commissioners often reject building new jails,” said Diana Claitor of the Texas Jail Project. “The public can also push back against funding such projects, not grasping how essential they are to the health of the community.”

“It’s easily put at the bottom of the list of what the county needs, and it should be at the top,” she said.



Travis County pretrial release system

Apr 26th, 2017 | By

One reason Texas has so many people held pretrial in county jails— resulting in high numbers of deaths due to medical neglect and suicide—is that out of 254 counties, only 5 use risk assessment tools that give the county a good way to release people without cash bond. …

Turns out “Travis County’s risk-informed pretrial release system removes poverty as an impediment to release, creating a fairer system for defendants,” and at the same time, saves the county money and results in fewer future problems for defendants.



Help us help Texans today and every day

Mar 1st, 2017 | By
Help us help Texans today and every day

The King, Bogany and Wills families, with historic roots in Polk County, all lost their sons in the Polk County criminal justice system. We were honored that they stopped by our office to express appreciation for the encouragement and information Texas Jail Project has given them.
They hope you will encourage us too, by donating to TJP, by check or Pay Pal. (See our donate button on this page) Continue on, to read the first hand accounts of the King family that are part of our Jailhouse Stories collection.