Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Jury: No liability, this time, but improvements needed in MH treatment at Travis County Jail

In Travis County, a federal jury declared that, although jailers weren't the "proximate" cause of Rachel Jackson's death, but there were areas where the county's operation of its jail needs to improve. Reported Steven Kreytak at the Austin Statesman:
A federal jury in Austin ruled [Friday] that neither the actions of Travis County officials nor of a former jail psychiatrist caused the death of a mentally ill woman found dead in her cell in 2008. But in an extraordinary move, the jury issued a statement calling on the county to improve the operations of its jails.

Following the jury’s decision in the lawsuit brought by the family of 21-year-old Rachel Jackson, who died while in “psych lockdown” in the Del Valle jail, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks agreed that the panel could read a statement into the record.

“While we cannot find that Travis County proximately caused the death of Rachel Jackson,” the foreman said while standing in the jury box, “we do see significant opportunity for improvement in the processes, documentation and communication within the Travis County Correctional center.”
Outside the courthouse, jurors declined to elaborate on the statement to a reporter.
In too many cases, jails and prisons substitute for mental health beds, and that appears to be what happened here, with fatal results. Jail facilities weren't created for this purpose, jail staff for the most part aren't trained for it, and in general the criminalization of mental illness has become one of the darkest stains tainting modern society. I'll be interested to learn more about the concerns underlying jurors' public statement.

RELATED: From Patricia Kilday Hart: "Help mentally ill on outside so they don't end up inside."


Anonymous said...

And yet again... MHMR is getting a fat paycheck to sit on their duff and cry about how over worked and underpaid they are.

One of, if not the most wasteful agency in the State of Texas.

Anonymous said...

Can we trust juries?

Anonymous said...

First let me say that the jury heard all the evidence during the trial and didn't read a reporters take on it to render their verdict. So yes you can trust a jury.
Second, I agree with Grits that Jail is no place for the metally ill. Our society should be demanding more from our law makers to see that their salaries, and the salaries of the over paid cronies working as directors of state agencies, are slashed to pay for more and better care for the mentally ill.

Anonymous said...

Sending persons who are mentally ill to jail or prison is the last resort. Does anyone remember when Texas Legislators did away with many mental hospitals to cut costs? Now our prisons are overloaded with mentally ill, the fatcats did away with State Mental Hospitals. How come no one but knows this?? Call you Representative/Senator and demand the bring back mental health hospitals, jail is no place for the mentally ill.

Anonymous said...

Ironically the mental hospitals that were closed did not result in budget reductions, or reallocation of the monies to improve other MHMR services. The budgets continued to increase while hospitals were closed. WHERE DID ALL THE MONEY GO?