Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The new capital punishment

On August 1, 2008, Arturo Chavez, a 17-year old illegal immigrant and student at Clear Creek High School, was stopped by League City (TX) Police and arrested for driving without a valid Texas driver's license. He was taken to the League City police station where, according to the cops, he ran out a door and tried to climb a fence. Arturo, who stood 5'3" and weighed about 125 pounds, was beaten by four League City cops and tasered multiple times.

EMTs took Arturo to the hospital for treatment of his injuries and then returned him to League City officers for processing into the Galveston County Jail. No officers reported any injuries. At the GCJ, Arturo was placed in solitary confinement. Despite being warned that Arturo was suicidal, GCJ officials left him alone in his cell.

Three days later Arturo was dead. He had hung himself with a blanket.

It wasn't the first time that an inmate in the GCJ ended up dead. On February 6, 2008, a 24-year old Galveston man who had been picked up on municipal warrants died in custody after suffering multiple seizures.

Capital punishment is authorized in Texas for capital murder and aggravated sexual assault of a child under the age of 14, not for driving without a license or not paying municipal traffic tickets.

Galveston County isn't the first county to kill off its inmates due to incompetence, negligence and neglect, and it won't be the last. The Harris County Jail has been investigated for over 100 inmate deaths since January 1, 2001.

While going to jail isn't a pleasant experience -- it shouldn't be a deadly experience. As no one in Austin or Washington, D.C. wants to be labled as being a defender of those in custody, the only means we have at our disposal to bring these stories to an end is to obtain judgments against those ultimately responsible for these senseless deaths.

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