Thursday, September 10, 2009

Harrowing tales of conditions in the Harris County Jail

Randall Patterson of The Houston Press penned an article in the current issue on the conditions inside the Harris County Jail. Mr. Patterson interviewed people as they were released from the facility and asked them to describe what it was like on the inside. The accounts of former inmates casts, shall we say, a different light on the facility than the assurances of Sheriff Adrian Garcia and County Attorney Vince Ryan.

Here's a taste of what Mr. Patterson discovered:

As for meals, "that whole food thing is hit or miss," said Shemika. "When they did feed you, it was a bologna sandwich — and I'm Muslim." Frank George Smith Jr. said he was there three and a half days and got just two sandwiches. No one was given anything to drink. There was only the fountain, which was suspended just above the toilet. The toilet was "like a fucking rain forest," Jarret said, "fungus and mold in there like this thick." People were lying on the floor around it; someone was always sitting on it. Jarret managed not to use the toilet for two and a half days — "man, you just take the stomach pains," he said — but he had to drink. "You practically got to put your face in shit to drink," he said. And Smith said, "you see that tan truck there? The water looked about like that."

What's even more appalling is that these folks were supposed to be presumed innocent when they were brought to the county jail. If this is how the Harris County Sheriff's Office treats people who haven't been convicted of anything - how much worse is the treatment of those who have been convicted?


AndyJ Wright said...

typically the conditions one must endure until "proven guilty" are abhorrent!

county facilities here in WA are not much better and, in addition to the shitheads in your holding cell, you have to contend with asshole correctional officers who have zero knowledge of the law outside of how it applies to them and assume you are guilty until proven innocent.

there are some major flaws in our CJ system ... especially at the municipal/county level.

just my .02

Anonymous said...

I find this article interesting because I make it a point to ask all my incarcerated clients if they are being mistreated in any way inside the jail, with the intention of doing something about it. The main complaint is that they aren't being given their meds. I have been able to correct that very quickly with medical records and letters to the jail. Even the dumbest supervisor understands that once a lawyer gets involved they need to shape up. Not one single inmate has complained of physical abuse from guards, just other inmates. And yet here the media manages to find several inmates immediately that have been the subject of all this physical abuse. Also, some guy was beaten for not sitting still in court? Since when are inmates allowed to sit in courts? They are brought out in groups for pleas and seldom sit down unless they are in a hearing or trial. Amazing how that reporter was able to just stand out there and discover all that abuse.

Anonymous said...

The Harris County Jail system prepares over 30,000 COOKED meals a day for the inmates. I am a deputy in the Sheriff's Office and am proud of the way the inmates are treated. If you choose to believe that the inmates are fed bologna sandwiches day after day, sit outside the jail, particularly on Wednesdays in the very early morning, and watch the tons of food being delivered. It is not all bread and lunchmeat. If I were to have an axe to grind with any entity, I could find individuals to quote that would support my views. The Sheriff's Office (under Tommy Thomas and Adrian Garcia) have invited many critics in on short notice to see whatever they wanted and go wherever they wanted. However; they usually decline because if they tour the facility they can no longer make outrageous claims if they have seen the truth. Is the Jail system perfect, no. But I can tell you that the majority of the staff are committed to making this the best jail system in the country. At the end of the day, it is still a jail and it will never be the Hyatt Regency.

Anonymous said...

Vince Ryan filed a 300 page response to DOJ. How many times can you repeat "Nuh-uh, is not?" 300 pages, I guess.

Paul B. Kennedy said...

I want to thank the Harris County deputy who commented to this post for his comment.

I would like to hear your views on what goes on and how things operate in the Harris County Jail. Please feel free to contact me by e-mail.

Unknown said...

I've enjoyed going through your blog, Mr. Kennedy! Your writing is humorous, and your articles inciteful. Please check out a favorite blog of mine, Professor Leonard Birdsong, a law professor and Harvard law grad, based out of Orlando, Florida.