Texas

Texas Legislature To Review Jail Safety Following In-Custody Deaths

State officials will begin holding hearings next month on jail suicides.

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Starting next month, state officials will begin holding hearings on jail suicides,  State Sen. John Whitmire from Houston and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced Tuesday.

County jails are currently overseen by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. But Whitmire says oftentimes, they only conduct reviews when someone files a complaint.

Investigators found deficiencies at the Waller County Jail after Sandra Bland was found dead in her cell.

“When you have a weak link in a system, as it was in Waller, it affects the entire system, people’s confidence in criminal justice,” Whitmire says.

Whitmire says the jail safety hearings will focus on issues including visitation practices, surveillance systems and the treatment of pregnant inmates.

Since 2012, Texas has seen an average of 25 suicides a year in county jails. Officials did not release statistics on jails run by other jurisdictions.  Patrick says a majority of suicides occur within the first week of incarceration.

“It’s a very small percentage and a very small number, but they’re human lives, and we should do the best we can to protect those lives in our jails,” Patrick says.

The hearings are set to begin in September.

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