Lead Article

We ask San Antonio: how is the jail now?

Jan 10th, 2014 | By
We ask San Antonio: how is the jail now?

To BEXAR COUNTY families:

Bexar County’s sheriff is now Susan Pamerleau and she has said, “I pledge to the citizens of Bexar County to make public safety my number one priority, with a strong foundation of stewardship of taxpayer dollars; improvements in jail operations; and family violence prevention initiatives.”

Please email us at Diana@texasjailproject.org to report all experiences with the jail in the past year. Texas Jail Project also wants to know about diversion programs in Bexar County–how well are they serving the people of San Antonio?



10 million misdemeanors deform our justice system

Dec 16th, 2013 | By
10 million misdemeanors deform our justice system

When you are charged with a misdemeanor, you may think you will have a chance to prove your innocence, but that’s before you discover the reality—that you are now part of the assembly line justice system. This important story explains how people, innocent or not, “are pressured by judges, prosecutors, and their own lawyers into pleading guilty, often without knowledge of their rights or the nature of the charges against them. Bail makes it worse. Around 80 percent of defendants who have bail set cannot afford to pay it. Innocent defendants commonly plead guilty just to get out of jail. In this way, millions of Americans are punished without due process and learn the cynical lesson that, at least when it comes to minor offenses, law and evidence aren’t all that important.”



Equality for LGBT Inmates at Harris County Jail

Nov 16th, 2013 | By
Equality for LGBT Inmates at Harris County Jail

Is this a new day or what? Harris County’s Sheriff says, “We stay ahead of the curve…” and institutes a gay, lesbian, bisexual and trangender policy that is comprehensive and progressive. Sheriff Garcia of Houston is in charge of the third-largest county jail in the U.S., where 125,000 are booked annually. At least 2.8 percent identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Harris County’s new policy concerning inmates prohibits discrimination or harassment of any kind based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Now, we hope this means that LGBT inmates will also get good medical care and decent treatment–a concern since we are still hearing of Houston inmates of all genders and identifications who don’t necessarily get that while incarcerated there.
Not saying that caring for 8, 900 human beings is an easy job. Just saying it’s an important job to do right.



Harris County: Poor people get longer jail time

Sep 20th, 2013 | By
Harris County: Poor people get longer jail time

A new report states that Harris County defendents don’t receive jail time based on age, race, or the nature of the charge–it’s based on how much money they have: “What generally determines the defendants’ fate is his or her economic status.”
“If the accused is unable to afford financial bail, he or she will quickly learn, in Harris County, the punishment is weeks or months of pretrial incarceration,” say researchers from the Orange Jumpsuit Report. The hard data behind this important report corroborates what is known in poor communities all over Texas. In most of Texas 247 county jails, people without resources languish in pretrial detention–losing their jobs, their families, and sometimes their physical and mental health. The Texas Observer’s Emily DePrang succinctly summarizes the various complexities.



The free jail myth: stop pretending incarceration pays for itself

Sep 9th, 2013 | By
The free jail myth: stop pretending incarceration pays for itself

Grits for Breakfast is the criminal justice blog that includes political analysis by Scott Henson. Now Scott has said a mouthful about the unethical and shortsighted practice of building more jails “without costing taxpayers money” – a myth masking the reality of overincarceration.
But some sheriffs keep on telling their towns to build, build, build. Nueces County Sheriff Kaelin is one of those and he just keeps on pushing for more jails, ignoring the fact, as Henson says, that the underlying cause of most overcrowding is due to local judges and excessive bail requirements. Real solutions are found in good programs and pretrial services, not bigger jails.



Debra Duffie, 5th to die in Gregg County Jail

Aug 21st, 2013 | By
Debra Duffie, 5th to die in Gregg County Jail

Our sympathies to the family of Debra Ingram Duffie. I thought I had brought up an old email by mistake when I saw the words Inmate Dies at Gregg County Jail. Surely this was a story about one of others who’ve died there since 2010, like Amy Lynn and Aaron, and previously, Misty Beene. This year, Bobby Madewell died there, no doubt also under the tender mercies and neglectful care of Gregg County’s medical staff and notorious Dr. Lewis Browne. Now, a new person has died, but they managed to get her off site so technically she wasn’t a jail death. Still the same because we suspect if she’d gotten decent care, if she’d been on the outside, she might have lived. Our sympathies to Ms. Duffie’s family. Please tell them to email or call Texas Jail Project.



The Demonizing of a Pregnant Inmate

Aug 7th, 2013 | By
The Demonizing of a Pregnant Inmate

Attention: Nacogdoches County
When jailers and sheriffs disapprove of an inmate, does that give them the right to deny that person fair treatment? Humane conditions? A trained jailer should surely know that the answer is “no,” and that verbal abuse and judgmental attitudes can be disastrous for inmates with serious problems. Like Cathryn Windham, 7 months pregnant and currently incarcerated in your county jail. Pre-trial, convicted of nothing but accused of many things. All of which may not even be true. This college graduate has a long-documented history of mental illness and yes, she has used drugs. And so it would appear that you have found her guilty of being an imperfect mother-to-be. I suggest the jail, sheriff, and this county are failing her by not recognizing mental disorders in a pregnant woman are a complicated business, and not necessarily deserving of hostility and punishment.



Craig Morris: Why didn’t Dallas jailers get him help?

Aug 2nd, 2013 | By
Craig Morris: Why didn’t Dallas jailers get him help?

We must remember Craig Morris. He was the human being who was allowed to die on a cold concrete floor at the Dallas County Jail because jailers didn’t think he needed medical care. They said they saw him but thought the floor “must have felt good to him.” But others saw this: a man who was at various times “confused, shaking and seemingly in pain. He was wheezing, hacking, breathing with difficulty, coughing up yellow-green phlegm, soiling himself and slumped over the shower floor.” God help you if you need medical help in the Dallas County Jail because the jailers won’t.



TX Observer Story Exposes Lack of Accountability

Jun 26th, 2013 | By
TX Observer Story Exposes Lack of Accountability

This article from the June, 2013 issue of the Texas Observer, covers the death of a mental patient, shot and killed by a deputy. Author Diana Claitor (TJP director) provides details about a Texas Ranger investigation that some might call a coverup, while analyzing the interface of local mental health providers and law enforcement.
““Most officers in all states will spend more of their career dealing with the mentally ill than they will armed, assaultive or fleeing individuals,” says Kevin Elliott, a retired Los Angeles sheriff’s officer who’s now a Ph.D. candidate in criminal justice policy at Texas State University. “Yet most law enforcement officers, including sheriffs’ deputies, receive only a few hours [of training to deal with mentally ill prisoners], compared with more than 150 hours of firearms, self-defense and physical fitness training.”



Tommy Taylor–Dead in Seven Hours

Jun 7th, 2013 | By
Tommy Taylor–Dead in Seven Hours

San Antonio Current writer Michael Barajas is leaving the paper and pursuing other goals, and we will miss his throrough coverage of issues related to inmates in the jails of San Antonio. This last story reveals so much about the inner workings of an understaffed and dysfunctional jail that it reads like a book, but Barajas also does a smpathetic and intelligent analysis of a young man’s life and tragic death. We can hope that Tommy Taylor’s seven hours in the jail will lead to a better jail, but we also have to hope the Current finds a reporter/writer who can cover stories with the passion Barajas brought to these cases.