They begin by quoting Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire from a hearing in September declaring he would "have zero tolerance for jail suicides and deaths."
And yet since the hearing on Sept. 22, there have been at least 13 more deaths in Texas county jails, seven of which are apparent suicides.In related news, on Facebook, Emily Ling posted these data for 2015 jail deaths in Texas:
In reviewing the recent deaths, several issues stand out.
First, seven of the deaths in recent months have come from just three counties - Webb, McLennan and Fort Bend. The Texas Commission on Jail Standards found McLennan and Fort Bend to be out of compliance with minimum jail standards.
Those findings came only after inspections prompted by people dying. Webb County has yet to be found out-of-compliance with any state standards, despite the fact that three people died in the jail in the month of November alone.
Increased scrutiny has also revealed systemic disregard of safety by jail staff. Last month, following the suicide of Michael Angelo Martinez, three McLennan County correctional officers were arrested for falsifying records after an inspection revealed they tried to hide their failure to make mandated checks on those in their care.
Jailers must be trained and required to prioritize safe and humane care.
Additionally, all but one of the 13 people who died in county jails had not yet been convicted; they were awaiting the disposition of their cases.
On average, more than 60 percent of people in county jails are in a pretrial status, many in custody for court hearings simply because they cannot afford to post bail.
2015 Inmate Deaths in Texas County Jails:
1. Harris County - 16 deaths
2. Travis County - 8 deaths
3. Bexar County - 7 deaths
4. Dallas County - 5 deaths
Brazos, Fort Bend, Liberty, Webb, & Williamson Counties all had 3 people die in each of their jails within this past year.
Bowie, Comal, El Paso, Nueces, Walker, & Wharton Counties all had 2 people die in each of their jails.
And another 28 county jails had at least 1 inmate die in their custody, including the death of #SandraBland in Waller County Jail.
In total we know at least 99 people died this past year while in the custody of a Texas county jail. The majority of them had not been convicted of any crime. But there is no guarantee that "innocent until proven guilty" doesn't mean you won't lose your life in our criminal justice system. The Texas Jail Project is working to change that.