Michigan's, Jail, conditions, inhumane

Texas Jail Faces New Lawsuit Over Treatment Of Incarcerated People

The Harris County Jail faces a lawsuit over its treatment of incarcerated people housed there. Texas Tribune reported that 13 formerly incarcerated people are joining with the families of nine who died at the jail to pursue a lawsuit.

Attorneys Benjamin Crump and Paul Grinke filed the case, which, according to the Texas Tribune, is among the highest-profile civil actions related to the Harris County Jail. Crump and Grinke say the Sheriff’s Office has neglected its duty to keep people housed at the jail safe, and their lawsuit claims that staffers at the jail have neglected to treat medical issues leading to death, assaulted incarcerated people and failed to stop attacks.

“We’ve all experienced the same loss, and we’re all seeking the same thing. We’re all seeking justice,” Jacilet Griffin-Lee, the mother of Evan Lee, who died at the jail in March 2022 after a slap-boxing game turned fatal, told the Tribune.

This is the latest allegation against the jail and the sheriff’s office.

Over the past 10 years, at least 51 lawsuits have been filed by formerly incarcerated people and their loved ones in either county or federal courts. Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said as part of a message to the Harris County community that he pledges to do everything he can to make the jail safer.

“We hold every life in our jail as precious. I want every family that has lost a loved one in the jail to know they have my sincere sympathy and my pledge to continue striving to make our jail even safer.”

On Aug. 7, family members held a joint press conference alongside Crum,p carrying pictures, posters, and demands for justice. Octavia Wagner, the sister of Jacoby Pillow, who the lawsuit alleges was beaten to death by jail guards during pre-trial detention, spoke at the press conference.

According to the Texas Tribune, the FBI is investigating the death of Pillow, and Sheriff Gonzalez has supported a full review of his death as well, Wagner said

“I wish people would stop being negative and judging these families and these young men and women that passed away, and realize that this is someone’s mother, someone’s father, someone’s brother, someone’s son. They’re human, and it’s easy to judge unless you’ve been in those shoes.”

The lack of support for incarcerated people with mental health issues has also come up, as at least five of the 11 people who died in the Harris County Jail in 2023 have been diagnosed with some form of mental illness. Ramon Thomas, one of those 11 people, was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder before he died in custody at 30. A cause of death for Thomas has not yet been determined, but lawyers for the family allege that jailers failed to provide lifesaving medical attention.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office has been found to be non-compliant with multiple State of Texas safety codes by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. Commission regulators have criticized the office for failure to comply with state standards regarding the medical care of incarcerated people, monitoring of incarcerated people, processing of detainees, and staffing levels.

Crump also spoke at the press conference and brought up the death of George Floyd.

“If we learned anything from the trial involving the killing of George Floyd, we learned that when citizens are in your custody, they are in your care,” Crump said. “And so, how many more citizens are going to die in the care of Harris County Jail before something is done?”


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