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Harris County Jail and World’s Largest Volcano: Tuesday’s Show (December 15, 2015)

Throughout 2015, Houston Chronicle reporters have reviewed more than a thousand disciplinary reports at the Harris County Jail and found guards used excessive force or abused their authority more than 120 times. While in about half of the cases where jail staff were disciplined (ranging from 2010 to the spring of 2015) they’ve rarely been fired […]

Throughout 2015, Houston Chronicle reporters have reviewed more than a thousand disciplinary reports at the Harris County Jail and found guards used excessive force or abused their authority more than 120 times. While in about half of the cases where jail staff were disciplined (ranging from 2010 to the spring of 2015) they’ve rarely been fired or brought up on criminal charges. Concerns center not just on cases of inmates being brutalized, but also on inmates’ health being threatened, in some cases leading to what some believe may have been preventable health crises — or even deaths.

On this edition of Houston Matters, we talk with Houston Chronicle reporters James Pinkerton and Anita Hassan about  what he and his colleagues have learned in reporting over the last year about conditions and treatment at the Harris County Jail, from the challenges jail staff face addressing some inmates’ mental health conditions, to instances of substandard medical care, to concerns about inadequate training and staffing levels. We also consider what has and has not been accomplished under the administrations of three Harris County Sheriffs over the last decade.

Also this hour: A court hearing was initially set to take place Monday (Dec. 14, 2015) regarding the state’s efforts to kick Planned Parenthood out of the Medicaid program. But the hearing was canceled because state officials haven’t actually done anything yet. This past weekend, the Texas Tribune reported how this may be part of a pattern with Texas officials. We talk over the latest (non) developments with News 88.7 health and science reporter Carrie Feibel.

Then: A real estate website named Movoto compiled a top ten list of Houston suburbs in which to retire. Richmond tops the list, thanks to its access to doctors, cost of living, home values and crime stats. Other areas cited include Webster, Alvin, Tomball and Katy. While there may be some areas of Houston that are better fits than others, is Houston, on the whole, a good place for retirees to live? We ask Jane Bavineau, Vice President of the Sheltering Arms Senior Services Division of Neighborhood Centers. We also hear from two retirees: One who chose to retire in Houston, and one who didn’t.

Plus: University of Houston Professor of Geophysics Will Sager and his students recently returned from a 36-day research cruise to Tamu Massif, what Sager calls the biggest single shield volcano on the planet. Sager wants to learn how the huge volcano – covering 120,000 square miles, roughly the size of New Mexico – first formed. (By comparison, Hawaii’s Mauna Loa – the largest active volcano on Earth – covers merely 2,000 square miles). Professor Sager tells Houston Matters’ Edel Howlin about the project.

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