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Texas BlogWire

Will They Fix The Prison/Jail Disgrace They Have Created?

by: lightseeker

Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 01:32 PM CST

(With all this talk about spending caps and property taxes, we sometimes overlook how that affects specific policy like insuring children and seniors, paying our teachers, educating students, making college affordable, etc. Great read! - promoted by Matt Glazer)

The Houston Chronicile ran this frontpage subhead today: "Over the past 6 years, at least 101 inmates have died at the Harris County Jail". Seventy inmates lost their lives in Dallas County's jail in the same period. That earned them a stinging rebuke from, of all places, the Bush Justice Department. Why is this happening? The linked video has the whole story. I make a few key points beneath the fold...

Crossposted at  Texas Kaos and MyDD

Will the Repugs in charge of the legislature fix the mess they have made?
What a naive question. The only "idea" they have is to cut taxes, and that means somebody has to pay and it is always those who can't afford to buy favor. That means the middle class , the poor, the working class, and yes, prisoners.  Why should you care about prisoners? Because in Texas, deadly injustice is only one indifferent shrug away. Because, someday it could be someone you care about. Unless, of course, mistakes never happen to people like you.

Texas Monthly ran this bit in 2002 when Texas regained control of its prisons after 30 years of federal oversight, for, you guessed , inhumane conditions stemming from overcrowding:

LINK CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC Thirty years ago, David Ruiz and other Texas prisoners filed what would become what was one of the most important lawsuits ever filed in this state. In a 1980 landmark opinion in the case of Ruiz v. Estelle, U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice wrote that "it is impossible for a written opinion to convey the pernicious conditions and the pain and degradation which ordinary inmates suffer within TDC prison walls." Now after decades of litigation, federal oversight of the Texas prisons will come to an end. The prisoners' lawyers had been preparing a motion to continue jurisdiction in the case based on evidence developed in the past six months. But after considering the uncertainties of further litigation and based on commitments made by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, they decided not to do so. "It was a difficult decision," Donna Brorby, lead counsel for the prisoners, said in a statement. "We reviewed thousands of pages of documents and … inspected eight maximum security prisons. We found improvements in the areas currently under court jurisdiction. But we also found clear evidence of continuing violations' of prisoners' constitutional rights in the form of malicious and illegal force by officers, a failure to protect prisoners from preventable rape and other victimization by prisoners, mutual abuse between prisoners and officers, and dehumanizing deprivations in maximum security 24-hour lock up." Now that the Ruiz lawsuit has officially ended, the state has agreed to begin a two-year project with the National Institute of Corrections to further scrutinize and improve practices and conditions related to the use of force, protection of prisoners, and administrative segregation. But Brorby concluded her statement with a cautionary note: "The Texas prisons will never be safe and reasonable places for those who must live in them until the citizens of Texas exercise their rights and make the system more transparent so they know what is happening inside their prisons."

So, here we are again. None of this is by accident. When Texas lost the Ruiz law suit, they grudgingly began to comply with court orders, but they also "got smart." Try this website . This is the sum total of transparently available data on healthcare inside of Texas prisions. Someplace, buried in this, the only review of the system over those 30 years, is the complaint that even the investigating committee had a heck of a time finding it. It is not linked to any government website. My point: no readily available data, no basis for lawsuits.

Check out the following in the Chronicle piece today:

LINK Thomas disputes many claims about health care problems as "anecdotal," adding, "While we would have little reason to question the sincerity of the families and friends in reporting what they have been told by the inmates, we do question the credibility of what the inmates themselves allegedly reported. Inmates will cast their jail experience in the worst possible light in an attempt to gain sympathy."

The author of the Chronicle piece didnot catch the hypocrisy, I did. 

As the video explains, there are at least 5 key problems.

Texas Jails and Prisons are full
Horror stories coming out of the county jails are a direct result of overcrowding
The probation system is broken
The medical care system is borderline unconstitutional
The system is racist and classist in its impacts

Check it out. Comments are welcome.

Tags: county jails, public policy, Republicans, Texas, reform, prisions, Texas Lege, (All Tags)
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Dallas County (0.00 / 0)
The Dallas County jail also faces similar problems- overcrowding, inmates dying, etc.

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