Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Harris County to DOJ Jail Monitors: Buzz Off

This deserves a full read and more extensive commentary when I have time, but for now let me just post the link: Via email, I learn that Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan today sent a 454-page response including exhibits (large pdf) to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, bitterly disputing claims by the DOJ Civil Rights Division that large numbers of deaths, poor healthcare, inadequate mental health services and a pattern of violence in the county jail violate inmates' constitutional rights.

Just skimming though looking at the highlights, it appears they're going to fight tooth and nail to keep from doing a single thing differently at the Harris County Jail, essentially daring the DOJ to sue them in federal court. Who knows, maybe that's what happens next?

For more background, here's the DOJ findings letter Ryan was responding to and a prior Grits analysis of that document.

UPDATE: Here's the initial Houston Chronicle coverage. In related, untimely news, the Sheriff's Office is investigating the cause of yet another inmate death at the jail, which is the issue that first drew the feds' attention to H-Town.

: From KTRK, the county attorney "
admitted the jail at one time deserved a D-minus for a grade, but says it now deserves an A-plus." That seems a bit over the top given recent headlines about chronic overcrowding, excessive incarceration of the mentally ill, and a shortage of doctors at the jail.


Anonymous said...

Only one word comes to mind - disgusting.

I will, from this point forward, never have ANY respect for those that the people of Harris Co. have placed in their trust to uphold the constitutional rights of ALL those that reside within their jurisdiction.

What a sorry lot.

Anonymous said...

The Harris County Jail has been an on-going problem for Harris County government dating back to the 70's with the Alberti v Sheriff federal court litigation. Sadly, Harris County government has yet to learn from the lessons of federal court intervention, consent decrees, and its failure to provide basic, safe, humane detention facilities. Jails should not be luxury facilities, rather they should provide a safe, secure, sanitary environment with adequate medical care, appropriate dietary needs, and basic services for human beings. The Harris County Jail and County officials from the judges, Commissioners, District Attorney, probation directors, pretrial service officials, and County Attorney's Office should have no doubts that the federal government will sue because such has happened in the past. As a Harris County taxpayer I am encouraging everyone who votes to hold all elected officials accountable at the polls and replace them accordingly. Once elected officials are held accountable it will be possible to hold appointed officials accountable by calling for their resignations or terminations. Bribery has reportedly occurred at the probation and pretrial offices in Harris County, yet no official statements have been issued by either organization. Sadly that is typical of the Harris County apporach - "bury your head in the sand and ignore the problem because it will go away". The situation in the Harris County Jail is sadly not going to go away until the federal government MAKES County officials accept responsibility for their lack of oversight. This lack of action and responsibility by County officials will be costly to the taxpayers of Harris County in litigation expenses, forced changes and improvements, and continuing litigation over beatings, deaths, injuries, and poor medical and mental health care.

R. Shackleford said...

I fail to understand how anyone can take the law seriously when those who represent the law fall so grievously short of their sworn duties. The justice system has become a joke that is in very poor taste. I name those responsible in Harris county oath breakers and poltroons, and fervently hope that someday they experience these horrible conditions firsthand.

FairPlay said...

Based upon my review of Vince Ryan's report, I would presume that there will be minimal action, if any, taken by DOJ. For the most part it appears Harris County has done more than necessary to see to that its jail operation standards were in accordance with constitutional standards. Apparently they made their jail operations transparent by inviting the NIC to review their operations. Every large jail will have indiviudal cases that can be critized. It appears to me that there was not a systematic violation of constitutional rights at the in the Harris Co. jail system.

Anonymous said...

They must be following the Texas Board of Education standards and the No Child Left Behind act... They'll bring down the entire class before they flunk the one bad kid... or in this case, the one bad jail. Were other jails that made poor showings allowed a make-up 'test' as well?

ltwieland said...

Well we got our first hand experience of the major issues and serious violations of constitutional law the Harris County Jail is violating. My 22yr old fulltime college student was arrested on Friday at 2 PM after having a nice lunch for his dad's birthday with us at 1 PM. My son rides a motorcyle(street bike) to college everyday, where not only is he an A student but will graduate in December. He has no prior convictions or has ever been in trouble except the minor "forgot to pay a traffic ticket." We live in the suburb of Spring, TX. They held my son all day and all night in a cell before they transferred him downtown to be processed. I had bond ready and proceeded DT at 11PM, but they weren't ready(Harris County Sheriffs dept)We were turned away to post his bond. We had to come back downtown at 8AM when he was finally transferred.He then was held for another 17 hours in an overcrowded facility by double capacity, filthy jail for a total of 38 hours!! All this for a moving violation! I want some answers of how Harris County thinks they are not violating citizens constitutional rights? I happen to be studying to become a lawyer and I have serious issues with this county.

Anonymous said...

Make no mistake.The Harris county Jail is inhumane,a disgrace to those who work there and are jailed there.How does anybody call there self a Texan or a man who makes any excuses for what goes on in there.