A Grim Look Into Prison Life in Harris County

Recently, several publications throughout Houston have been shedding light on concerns surrounding Harris County jails and the Houston Police Department (HPD). One of these major publications is the Houston Chronicle, who recently published several remarkable articles about the treatment of prison inmates within the Harris County jail system. These articles were disturbing as they were eye-opening, and the following consist of just some of the revelations:

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Harris County Jail Suicide Rate Alarming

Calls for training, better cell checks.

According to St. John Barned-Smith of the Houston Chronicle, “[I]n thousands of pages of autopsy reports and internal disciplinary reports, the Chronicle found 35 instances in which jailers skipped required cell checks or faked records to hide skipping them, a pattern that experts called a serious problem at county jails statewide.”

The union states that “the jail has never been properly staffed because both county and state leaders don’t provide adequate funding. ‘We just don’t have enough manpower for the number of beds we have in the jail.'”

The article continues with “statewide, 154 inmates have killed themselves in county jails since September 1st, 2009. Suicides in county jails recently hit a five- year high: 33, up from 22 five years ago. The spike has come even as state officials have tried to shrink populations. (The total excludes municipal jails, which the state does not regulate.)”

Jail Assault Cases

Member of HPD gets year of probation for assault case.

A Houston Police Department jailer—a civilian—assaulted a mentally ill inmate in a padded cell at the Houston Police Department’s Central Jail, striking him multiple times. The reason? The inmate allegedly spit at him.

According to the Harris County District Attorney, “video surveillance helped authorities identify discrepancies” in the jailer’s account of events. In the end, the HPD assailant was convicted on misdemeanor charges.

The chief of the District Attorney’s Office Civil Rights Division, Julian Ramirez, states “this case illustrates the importance of having a video when complaints are made against law enforcement officials. We could not have proven this particular case without the video to disprove the justification given by the jailer.”

SEE: Top 3 Crimes in Harris County

Inmates Ignored When Reporting Abuse

Claims of jailer abuse dismissed without investigation.

Anita Hassan and James Pinkerton of the Houston Chronicle shared a story about a Harris County inmate who was severely abused by a jailer. In their story, inmate William Curtis Evans was hit in the face by Harris County jailer Larry Poag. It doesn’t end there—according to Evans, Poag also bent his finger back so far that it broke. This story by Anita Hassan and James Pinkerton opened:

William Curtis Evans is serving three years in a Texas state prison for assaulting a detention officer in the Harris County Jail named Larry Poag. According to Poag, Evans bit him on the forearm, which warranted the attack. However, Evans denies ever biting him. As a result of his reporting, Evans was sentenced to additional years in prison without ever being given a proper investigation into his abuse reports. According to the Houston Chronicle, eight cases were discovered involving severe abuse of Harris County jail inmates. According to some of these reports, inmates were choked, kicked, or punched by detention officers only to end up facing felony charges for alleged crimes against the jailers.

This is true despite the jailers being disciplined for misconduct later down the line for the same reported incidents. Three of the eight inmates reporting abuse were later convicted and sentenced to prison.

Inmates Charged Despite Jailers Own Misconduct

Continuing Anita Hassan’s story, the Houston Chronicle states as follows: “A Houston Chronicle investigation has found misuse of force by staff against inmates is prevalent and hard to prove, especially when jail staff file charges against inmates in altercations during which their own actions have been called into question.”

Hassan continues with “between 2009 and May of this year, the Harris County Sheriff’s office has pursued charges more than 900 times against inmates for harassment, assault and other crimes against public servants stemming from incidents within the jail, according to court records. With the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division continuing its review of excessive force by jail staff and pursuing an “ongoing law enforcement proceeding” in the jail, the Chronicle found that jail staff members have been disciplined in more than 120 incidents for misuse of force and other abuses of authority since 2009, records show. Several of those disciplined have been involved in dozens of inmate prosecutions.

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Get Help Today

If you know anyone arrested or detained in Harris County, we can get them out of jail faster than anyone. In light of these recent allegations against the Harris County Police Department and workers of the Harris County jails, no inmate should spend a single night detained in any Harris County detention facility. To act fast and get them released faster, call ABC Bail Bonds of Houston today.

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