Texas jail victims’ family sue over deaths in custody

inside prison

Family members of inmates at a jail in Harris County, Texas are suing the county over claims officers brutally beat their loved ones and denied them critical medical treatment.

Attorney Ben Crump has filed a suit on behalf of 22 families who say their relatives died or suffered injuries.

The families say the inmates were deprived of constitutional rights.

“Just because you are arrested does not mean you should be given the death sentence,” Mr Crump said.

“The families have been crying out for the last two years saying that they need something to be done, and since, nothing has been done,” he added at a news conference on Monday announcing the suit.

The BBC has reached out to Harris County for comment.

At least 27 people died in Harris County Jail custody last year, a number Mr Crump noted was higher than the number of people who were executed on death row in all of Texas.

In the suit, Mr Crump alleges that Harris County Jail, a facility meant for temporary confinement for those not yet convicted of a crime, has become a place of “torment and punishment”.

The suit alleges numerous instances of officers assaulting inmates and delaying medical care, failing to intervene in attacks from other inmates and denying those being held at the jail their medications.

One inmate, Evan Lee, who had a history of mental health issues and diabetes, died in jail custody in March 2022 after he was beaten by another inmate and did not receive proper medical care from jail staff for weeks, according to the complaint.

“It has totally, totally torn our lives,” Jacilet Griffin-Lee, the mother of Evan Lee, said at the news conference on Monday. “For our loved ones to be totally taken away from us is inhumane and unjustifiable.”

In another instance, an officer “inexplicably” kicked Jeremiah Anglin, an inmate who suffered from schizophrenia, in the face, knocking six of his teeth out, the suit alleges.

The families are seeking an unspecified amount in damages for emotional distress and other harms resulting from the death of their loved ones.

“This has been going on for years,” said Gabrielle Smith, the daughter of Gary Smith, who died in jail custody in January 2023 after he was denied medical observation and care for a kidney disorder, according to the lawsuit. “I just pray that we can all stand together to get some justice,” Ms Smith added.

In 2009, the US Justice Department published a report from an investigation into the Harris County Jail, which found the jail deprived inmates of critical medical care and failed to protect them from physical harm and other life-threatening conditions.

In the suit, attorneys for the families allege officials have taken no drastic measures to improve safety conditions and medical care at the jail since the report.

The Texas Commission on Jail Standards has also found that the Harris County Jail did not meet minimum jail safety standards on several occasions, including in recent years. Texas officials have said the jail has been plagued by overcrowding and staffing shortages.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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