Friday, December 28, 2007

Texas Jail News Roundup

Here are several jail related items I've been watching that may interest Grits readers:

Federal suit filed against Dallas jail for medical neglect
This has been a long time coming: A civil rights lawsuit filed by Jeffrey Ellard alleging medical neglect at the Dallas County Jail, especially notable as the first such litigation since Parkland hospital took over medical care at the jail from UTMB Galveston's correctional managed care service, which had been blamed for past problems. UTMB currently provides healthcare services for youth incarcerated in TYC and for most adult Texas prison inmates, where similar problems have been alleged.

Freestone County Jail History
The Mexia Daily News supplies a history of the five jails in Freestone County dating to a log cabin built in 1852 that was later used as a barn. According to this article, until 1925 executions were performed in local county jails, and three of the five jail buildings in Freestone County at various points served the death house function. J.R. "Sonny" Sessions wrote that "The last legal hanging in Texas was in Waco on Jully 30, 1923 of a man who admitted 8 murders and terrorized the area for a year."

Tuff on crime pols can't also be cheapskates
Here's a classic penny-wise, pound foolish moment: Johnson County has a reputation as one of the "tuffest" jurisdictions in the state, but when they looked at a consultant's and contractors' recommendation for a new roof on their overbuilt jail they decided to do it on the cheap. The county is willing to pay about 40% of the $547,800 low bid, said the county judge, perhaps $200,000 or less. Hmmm. Do they foresee the county's function to oversee the jail ceasing at some point, or do commissioners just think that when the roof fails again it will be somebody else's problem? If you want to be tuff on crime, you have to be willing to pay the piper.

Anderson commissioners pressure to open entrepreneurial jail wing
Speaking of paying the piper, the Anderson County Jail in Palestine intentionally overbuilt its new facility in order to take in prisoners from other counties on an entrepreneurial basis. Commissioners there are growing impatient for new revenue to begin flowing to help pay the debt.

Reimbursing counties for 'criminal alien' costs
Here's a good description in the Mineral Wells Index of the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, a federal program that reimburses counties for incarceration costs for felons and repeat misdemeanants identified for an immigration hold. "Payment to Texas counties ranged from $308 to Dimmit County to $2.8 million to Harris County (Houston)."

Bexar's bricks and mortar jail unsecure, so why push tent jail?
Okay, Bexar County cannot prevent escapes or secure it's bricks and mortar jail from contraband, according to WOAI radio, so why do Commisioner Tommy Adkisson and others insist on pushing a tent jail, where the problem of excluding contraband and preventing escapes would be much worse?

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