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Sadness, Beauty, and Essential Listening

Nov 23rd, 2021

What families teach us about stigma around the death of a loved one in county jail and the trauma inflicted by communities and law enforcement. By Diana Claitor

Texas Jail Project Takes October for Operational Development

Oct 11th, 2021

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, 2020, our team has worked diligently (nearly non-stop) to provide community support for the tens of thousands of people incarcerated in TX county jails. We received over 2,500 phone calls and over 1,000 emails requesting help, conducted over 1500 phone interviews and processed over 2,200 pieces of mail.

Thanks to HB 1307, Pregnant Persons Will Receive Care

Jun 21st, 2021

A woman is suing Collin County after she says she was denied the right to see a doctor while she was pregnant in jail, says Fox News.
The lawsuit alleges that she later suffered a miscarriage after enduring an undiagnosed urinary tract infection.
The lawsuit alleges that Collin County incentivizes its third-party medical provider for the jail to cut costs. It alleges that is what led to an inmate being denied the right to proper prenatal care, which, in turn, resulted in the death of her baby.
Lauren Kent says her cries for help for her unborn baby were ignored for 36 days while in the Collin County jail.
“I begged them for help on more than one occasion,” she said.

How many of us Texans know someone who was pregnant while in jail–often finding out they were pregnant after being jailed–and then lost the baby? Most of the time, that mother-to-be wasn’t receiving good ob-gyn care, good nutrition and good support. Then after their miscarriage, they were tossed back in the cell without any medical or mental health care. That’s why Texas Jail Project supported HB 1307, a bill REQUIRING that jails provide counseling and care for those jailed while pregnant, who then miscarried or were assaulted while confined there.

And the governor signed HB 1307, authored by Rep. Mary González, into law this month!! Small steps, folks. But they they make a difference for people in those cells. 
(Click CONTINUE READING to get the whole story.)

Why Reimagining Safety Looks Different in Rural America

May 3rd, 2021

A Washington Post op-ed by Jasmine Heiss and Krishnaveni Gundu. April 29, 2021

In rural Texas….the rate at which poor, unconvicted people are locked up before trial has increased 22 percent in the past 10 months, rebounding sharply after an initial decline in response to the covid-19 pandemic. Across the state and nation, many sheriffs and other local elected officials are arguing that new and bigger jails are the unavoidable answer. But even before the rapid spread of covid-19 behind bars, we saw with painful clarity the frequency with which small-city and rural jails spread suffering and death.
The nonprofit Texas Jail Project has been documenting jail deaths, while working to reduce the harm caused in small counties where jails have usurped the role of emergency rooms and public health institutions.
Take the case of a 33-year-old woman who was in her second trimester while incarcerated for a probation violation in Brazoria County Jail in fall 2020. Instead of providing mandatory ob-gyn care and extra nutrition, the jail held her in solitary confinement. By the time her family received her alarming letters and reached out to advocates and state agencies for help, she had miscarried.

National Support for Tx Jail Project

May 3rd, 2021

A new story in Blue Tent says: In 2005, four Texas environmental activists participated in a demonstration against Union Carbide. One of the women eventually ended up spending almost five months in jail. The stories Diane Wilson heard there, and the hurdles that her friend, Krishnaveni (Krish) Gundu encountered while trying to advocate for her, inspired the women to do something for people incarcerated in jails across the state.

The result is the Texas Jail Project, a nationally recognized criminal justice reform organization with statewide and even national reach. TJP’s work includes acting as an unofficial citizens’ jail oversight commission throughout Texas, advocating for individuals incarcerated in Texas jails, and working with coalitions that have successfully pushed for legislative reforms. It has even forged working relationships with some Texas jail administrators.

As a result, the project has attracted the support and partnership of high-level national organizations, including Civil Rights Corps, the Vera Institute and The Bail Project. A spokesperson for The Bail Project, which developed a partnership with TJP in the summer and fall of 2020, said that Texas Jail Project does “incredible advocacy work, and we’re honored to be in this effort together.”

More Voices=More Justice

Apr 30th, 2021

More voices at the capitol means more justice in our communities! Working toward that goal, Texas Jail Project is facilitating testimony by people impacted by the criminal justice system, women, those living with disabilities, veterans, and people of color. We hope you’ll read some of the stories below about people who brought their stories to the capitol and endured hours of waiting to be able to speak out—to put on the record the real-life impact of the criminal punishment system on their lives.
Pictured is Glenn Hayes, a 20-year-old who traveled from Baton Rouge to speak to a Senate committee about being trapped in the Smith County Jail for 116 days without ever being indicted. TJP advocate Dalila Reynoso facilitated his release and journey home with funds from TJP’s community bail fund.

National & State Media Comes to TJP About Winter Storm

Feb 22nd, 2021

Krish Gundu, executive director, spoke to reporters and writers from all over the nation during the winter storm emergency in February. The Washington Post quoted the calls Texas Jail Project recorded from people in Galveston, Smith, Polk, Victoria and Bowie counties. Incarcerated people, including many who have not been convicted of a crime, reported to the nonprofit that jails lacked blankets and left inmates in freezing conditions NBC news spoke on the phone to a Texas Jail Project contact in the Victoria County Jail and quoted Gundu addressing how our county jails failed to depopulate at the beginning of the pandemic.

Stop the Suicides: Monitor Jails Properly

Feb 12th, 2021

Before he killed himself in his solitary cell the Red River County jail in May of 2019, Christopher Cabler wrote a note that said, “I couldn’t be alone anymore—I’m tired of them telling me to do it that’s all they ever say do it do it do it so f*** I’ll do it! All I wanted was to be able to talk to somebody.”

2020: Resilience, Action & Possibilities!

Jan 11th, 2021

In 2020 we rose to the challenge – taking on the colliding pandemics of COVID-19 and inhumane jailing, while undergoing our own internal transformation. We’re proud to have taken on big fights in our pursuit of depopulating county jails and demonstrating community based alternatives to incarceration. Texas county jails were the frontlines for this year’s crisis, foregrounding systemic inequities and corruption, from rural county jails with unreported outbreaks to metropolitan superspreader facilities. And we didn’t back down.

“Texas Disguising Jail Deaths” story in Prison Legal News

Dec 21st, 2020

by Diana Claitor, TX Jail Project communications director.

In 2012, a 53-year-old Black woman named Edwinta Deckard was arrested on a misdemeanor theft charge and held in the Nacogdoches County Jail where she died after three days. Her death was an ordeal of dehydration and trauma, as repeated bouts of diarrhea were ignored by jail staff, and her condition spiraled downward. Cellmates begged jailers to get her medical help, and toward the end they witnessed jailers manhandle her as she lay unconscious.

The awful details of her rough treatment came out when two of the jailers were indicted for criminally negligent homicide, and a $30 million wrongful death lawsuit was filed. However, charges against the jailers were mysteriously dropped when Visiting Judge Guy Griffin signed an order to quash the indictments against the two jailers, and a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit.

Since this was a death in custody, or DIC, Deckard’s death was required by law to be reported to the state, and as such, the details and summary would be officially recorded.

However, that didn’t happen. There’s no record of her death in the custodial death database at the office of the Texas Attorney General (AG). Thus, neither the jail, the county sheriff, nor Nacogdoches County was held accountable. Not reporting a death in custody is a violation of a statute and could have resulted in the sheriff being charged with a class C misdemeanor, but by the time I discovered that Deckard’s death had never been reported, the violation was past the two-year statute of limitations.