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Diana Claitor Letter to Dickens County

Texas Jail Project
1712 E. Riverside Drive #190
Austin, Texas 78741
Diana@texasjailproject.org or 512 983-3446

April 29, 2008
County Commissioners
Fort Bend Commissioners Court
Dear Commissioner

We are an all-volunteer group of Texas women who monitors treatment of inmates in Texas county jails and other facilities housing country prisoners. We also advocate for change by publicizing conditions and communicating with the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. A Fort Bend County resident, Sue Ann Lorig, wrote a letter to your newpaper (http://www.fortbendstar.com/Columns/letters.htm “Sending prisoners to another facility disturbing”) and let us know about your recent decision to send county inmates to the Dickens County Correctional Center, a private jail more than 500 miles away from Fort Bend County. We believe this decision to be flawed for several reasons.

It may be that humanitarian concerns about the huge number of miles family or counsel would have to travel to see inmates are not a priority, but commissioners should take a look at the financial impact on your county. While Dickens is under new management, the new private company CiviGenics has almost as bad a record as the previous one. Just last week, Texas Jail Project received reports from people with relatives incarcerated at Dickens; those inmates were evidently locked in blocks with gang members who administered beat downs that were ignored until serious injuries (some requiring surgery) occurred. The families are considering lawsuits against the county that put their prisoners here (Taylor County) as well as CiviGenics. Your county government will be liable if similar situations arise with your inmates.

Moreover, upon release, inmates will be returning to their homes in your area and many will then have the infectious diseases, traumatic injuries and mental and emotional damage resulting from lack of care for which the Dickens jail is notorious. They will require ongoing services that will further impact your county.

Some officials may brush off these concerns about dangerous and inhumane conditions as if we somehow expect a luxury resort., but members of Texas Jail Project are realists who understand the difficulties of incarceration. So our goals are realistic: we believe that the laws in the state code that mandate decent conditions and care for prisoners in jails should be applied to all inmates. We want you to consider that incarceration is the punishment, not incarceration that incorporates beat-downs, filth and life-threatening illness or injuries. It is also important to realize that many of the people you are sending there have not been found guilty of anything but are being held in pre-trial detention. (As of last year, 49% of all county inmates in Texas are being held in pre-trial detention.)

We very much appreciate your time and attention, and we hope you will re-consider transferring prisoners to the Dickens County Correctional Center. Please contact us with any questions you have.
Sincerely,

Diana Claitor, director
Texas Jail Project