Criminal Justice

Another man died in the Harris County Jail, marking the facility’s 13th reported death this year

At least 13 people have died while in custody at the Harris County Jail this year.


Harris County Jail in downtown Houston, on April 12, 2021.

Another man died while in custody at the Harris County Jail over the weekend, marking the 13th reported death from within the facility this year.

According to Harris County court records, 66-year-old Alfred Rios was booked into the jail March 2021 after being charged with sexual assault. On Saturday, Rios was inside a medical ward of the jail when he suffered from an “apparent medical emergency,” according to the sheriff’s office.

The sheriff’s office says Rios was brought to a nearby hospital and “had no obvious physical injuries” when he was pronounced dead at around 1:35 p.m. on Saturday. His death is being investigated by the Texas Rangers and the autopsy will be conducted by the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences.

Rios is the 13th reported in-custody death this year. This comes after at least 27 people died while in custody at the Harris County Jail last year — the highest number in nearly two decades, according to county records and data from Texas Justice Initiative.

On average, people spend nearly 200 days in the jail waiting for their day in court, according to the Harris County Jail dashboard. In comparison, the statewide average is about 60 days, according to Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. As of Sunday, there were 9,542 people in the jail and 1,350 people were being outsourced to other facilities.

Additionally, Gonzalez says there are nearly 200 job vacancies at the jail and recently urged county officials to set aside more money in the county’s proposed 2024 budget to cover salary increases for detention officers.

Lucio Vasquez

Lucio Vasquez

Newscast Producer

Lucio Vasquez is a newscast producer at Houston Public Media, NPR’s affiliate station in Houston, Texas. Over the last two years, he's covered a wide range of topics, from politics and immigration to culture and the arts. Lately, Lucio has focused his reporting primarily on public safety and criminal justice...

More Information