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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.



2013 Legislature: No Study of Solitary?

May 15th, 2013 | By
2013 Legislature: No Study of Solitary?

County jails were kicked out of this bill due to opposition from the Texas Sheriffs Association and the Texas Association of Counties. Representatives Marquez and Guillen still have hopes for their bills, which would study the use of ad seg in the prisons and juvenile lockups, but even that is looking doubtful.
Within this well-written article by TT editor Brandi Grissom, TJP director Diana Claitor comments on the county sheriffs’ opposition:
“It’s a pitiful state of affairs when we’re all so concerned about the ever-increasing number of mentally ill in jails and we are not willing to at least try to look at some alternative solutions…”
[My apology for using the term “the mentally ill.” It should be “inmates with mental illness.” D. Claitor]



Bexar County Jailer Faked Records When Inmate Died

Apr 27th, 2013 | By

Texas Jail Project and others protested in San Antonio last fall, to call attention to the death of Tommy Taylor who died in the Bexar County Jail just six hours after turning himself in, August 21, 2012. Now comes a San Antonio Current story that a jailer did not do the mandatory cell check–jailers are required to check on “isolated inmates” in solitary cells every 30 minutes–and that might well have saved Taylor’s life. Jailer Ernesto Flores is accused of hiding that fact by falsifying the records so that it would appear he did check on Taylor. Another black mark on the Bexar County Jail–and this one resulted in an unnecessary death of a young man who, whatever his problems, was a father to his little girl and beloved of his whole family.



Why Not Look at County Jails Too?

Apr 20th, 2013 | By
Why Not Look at County Jails Too?

Can you call a Texas Senator’s office and voice your opinion? There is a good bill, Senate Bill 1003, that calls for a “review” or examination of how prisons and county jails use solitary confinement, especially on mentally ill inmates. The Sheriffs Association of Texas rode into the Senate hearing and demanded that they take out county jails–despite the fact that increasing numbers of mentally ill inmates are held for long periods in county jails. The sheriffs seem to be against this study by an outside expert simply because it would mean answering questions. But Senator Carona, author of SB 1003, is listening to the sheriffs and may remove county jails.
Please contact Senator Carona’s office to voice your opinion: do county jails need to stay in SB 1003?
Call the Austin office at 512 463-0116 or the Dallas office at (214) 378-5751 and let them know, please!



Gregg County Jail’s Deadly “Treatment”

Mar 27th, 2013 | By
Gregg County Jail’s Deadly “Treatment”

Another Longview mother saw her son die because of Gregg County’s policies last week.
“I told them he needed his medication,” said Betty Madewell, referring to 51-year-old Bobby Madewell. “His doctor had prescribed him Xanax, and I told them he needed his Xanax or he would start having seizures.”
(Click on CONTINUE READING to see the excellent story from the Longview News-Journal, a local paper holding county officials accountable. They asked challenging questions, provided the background of similar deaths there, and published the list of terrible symptoms accompanying Xanax withdrawal.)