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.
Posts Tagged ‘ suicide ’
How did Athena Covarrubias manage to hang herself in a shower stall?
On Tuesday, Aug. 18, a few minutes after 10am, the Travis County Sheriff’s Office sent notice of what will likely be recognized as Texas’ 30th suicide in a county jail this year. The news came just as Lt. Gov.Dan Patrick and Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, chair of the Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee, were decrying the fact that the state had already recorded 29. Since 2012, 100 have suffered self-inflicted deaths in Texas jails
“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.”
Tuesday, September 9, 2014 11:37 AM, NewsWest9.com GAINES COUNTY – A Gaines County Jail inmate has died after attempting suicide. The incident happened on Sunday at the Gaines County Law Enforcement Center. We’re told that 18-year-old Abel Marroquin Vasquez from Seagraves was attempting suicide by hanging. Officials say that Vasquez was taken to Memorial Hospital
The numbers of people dying in county jails are adding up in 2014—and most recently, one of them was especially tragic. Only 18, Victoria Gray died in September in the Brazoria County Jail after that jail failed in so many ways, it will take a full investigation to sort that out and hold officers and officials accountable. Some, like Victoria, die of suicide while others die of what is called “natural causes,” and their deaths are not always investigated. (More have died in police custody or other facilities; we are only listing those in county jails.) Earlier this year, the list included Courtney Ruth Elmore, was 33 years old. She died February 11, 2014, around 7:00 a.m.. in the Brown County Jail. Was the staff trained to watch for respiratory failure? David Grimaldo, 18, a Perryton High School student died just hours after being booked into the Ochiltree County Jail. The Ochiltree County Sheriff Joe Hataway read from an autopsy report saying that the teen died of a medical condtion complicated by intoxication. Could it have been prevented?
The numbers of people dying in county jails are adding up in 2014. On October 6th, 37-year-old Iretha Lilly died hours after being tased by a McLennan County deputy; because of many reports to us of jailers failing to respond to a person in a medical crisis, we are asking how long was Ms. Lilly in heart failure before she was taken to the ER? And the Brazoria County Jail failed to protect 18-year-old Victoria Gray despite knowing of her prior hospitalization and suicide attempt. Both of these women were pretrial—not yet convicted.
Each month Texas county jails tally the number of pregnant inmates and report that to the Jail Commission. Some are only held there a few days, but others may be incarcerated for weeks and months and a number will deliver their babies in local hospitals while in custody.
Chelsi Moy published a wonderful story in the Missoulian about a beautiful woman who killed herself in the Uvalde jail. Read all of it here.
Patulla Williams had been dead for several hours before anyone thought to check on her. The 29-year-old was found d dead in a Texas jail cell, a television cord wrapped around her neck. Her death in December placed a tragic period at the end of a life plagued by trouble, a life that began in a foster home in western Montana.
Williams had struggled for decades with abuse from her early life, but she disguised it well, the hurt hidden behind a smile radiant enough to stop strangers in their tracks wherever she went. And Williams went a lot of places.
Imagine your loved one, out of his or her mind with a terrible mental problem–incarcerated in a local jail. On the next page, a Texas Tribune story tells of a tragic end for such a person. (“Llano County Jail Death”) Now we have received a personal note that describes just how difficult it is to deal with the system when trying to help a mentally ill person inside a jail:
“My brother had been incarcerated for months in an East Texas county jail and due to mental illness needed transfer to a mental health facility…We had called several different advocacy organizations with no success and I was just so thrilled and relieved when I spoke to Diana. She was the first to take an interest and start looking into my brother’s case.”
“The defendants completely ignored the serious medical and mental health needs of Mr. Salazar during his detention at the Nueces County Jail,” the lawsuit reads.
This statement probably applies to many suicides, according to information and reports gathered by Texas Jail Project.