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.”
Posts Tagged ‘ sheriffs ’
Check out this short and entertaining animated film about the differences between county jails and prisons. Texas Jail Project finds that because many people, including lawmakers, church leaders, and advocates, don’t understand the distinctly different functions and populations , they fail to ask the right questions or make informed decisions. Thus, writer Maurice Chammah (from Texas) and the Marshall Project created this film to explain how local lockups differ from state and federal facilities.
Each meeting starts at 9 am, and anyone can attend! You can speak during public input, which is at the very beginning, but the commissioners and staffers will simply listen and will not respond to you at that time. They will allow public speakers about 9 am; limit your remarks to 3 minutes. (You can also give them a letter.) Meetings occur in Austin every 3 months,on the first Thursday of that month. Continue for a link that with more info about meetings of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.
Would you help Texas Jail Project ensure the constitutional rights of prisoners to receive and read publications? A majority of people in 245 local jails are pretrial or awaiting disposition of their cases–not even convicted–and yet in some, they are not allowed to read anything except the Bible. We need volunteers to help us conduct an a survey of jail policy, by phoning the jails. More details available if you email us at firstname.lastname@example.org … Sheriffs and jails forbidding reading material is such a problem that the Texas Commission on Jail Standards posted a letter on their website last fall, saying, “In other words, personal preferences of jail staff should not be a basis for banning a particular publication.” (See http://www.tcjs.state.tx.us/docs/TAMemoPrisonLegalNews.pdf)
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]
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!
Read this new story about the way many jails release people in the middle of the night, into dangerous situations. This is an issue that Texas Jail Project helped bring to the attention of lawmakers and the sheriffs and the public . . . .
HOUSTON — It was 1 a.m. when Acy Williams, a slight, 53-year-old homeless man, walked out of the Harris County Jail and onto the dark, desolate streets of downtown Houston. He wore plastic flip-flops, dingy scrubs and a black fedora. He had no money and no phone, and the Houston Metro buses ran infrequently at that late hour. He decided he would just have to walk several miles across the city to the spot in South Houston where he hoped his belongings were still safely stowed.
A person released from a county jail in the dead of night must find their own way home. Some of them find a ride from a kind stranger, and others walk for miles or manage to borrow a cell phone to call for a ride from friends or family. Most are traumatized, and some are endangered. A few of them end up dead.
“How is it that a 15 year old….who the country labels worthless to the economy – how is it that this child who has no hope of getting a job or affording college – can suddenly generate 20 to 30 thousand dollars a year once trapped in the criminal justice system? The expansion of prisons,
By KEVIN KRAUSE / The Dallas Morning News /Saturday, November 27, 2010 When the Dallas County jails failed inspection for the seventh time last year, consultants brought in to fix the problem encountered a stressed-out and overworked Sheriff’s Department with a culture that resisted change and failed to hold its employees responsible for repeated problems,