Outside the jail and looking in: raising a ruckus in Texas

Diana Claitor
Diane Wilson
361-785-4680 or 361-676-0663 (cell)
Austin, Texas. Texas Jail Project, a newly formed advocacy group made up of former women inmates and jail activists will speak during the public input period at the quarterly meeting of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards on November 2, Thursday, 9am at the William P. Clements Bldg, 1st floor, Room 103, Austin, Texas.
Diana Claitor, co-founder of TJP and a resident of Austin, stated, “The Commission points to their limited role in setting standards for jails, but we believe they must play a larger role in ensuring women’s health and safety in these jails. The plain truth is that since the Commission’s inspectors are the only ones reporting on conditions in these facilities, they must begin to speak out and advocate for humane conditions, beyond the fire exits and number of guards. We need them to shed light on the shamefully inadequate health care and isolation of women who often have no representation or means of communication.”
A recent study, Texas County Jails, 2001 – A Status Report, published similar findings: “Local jails and holding institutions present one of the most perplexing, confusing and generally misunderstood areas of the entire criminal justice system. Funding agents (county commissioners or supervisors) often view the jail with disdain. No organized lobby or influential interest groups advocate increased spending for jails. Perhaps, from a political perspective, this is because jails have no ‘sex appeal.”
With the exception of reforms initiated by judicial intervention during the 1970’s and the 1980’s, local jails often reflect practices and structures dating back to the 19 century. This lack of administrative priority and workplace status inevitably leads to a negative institutional environment. (Gaines, Kaune & Miller, 2000)
The Texas Jail Project was formed by concerned citizens after Diane Wilson, environmentalist and peace activist from Seadrift, Texas was sentenced to 125 days in jail for an act of civil disobedience and spent time in both Harris and Victoria County. Wilson later wrote an open letter to the sheriff, judges, jail administrators, Commission on Jail Standards, and Governor Rick Perry about the unhealthy, inhumane, and degrading jail conditions.
(Public input at the Texas Commission on Jail Standards is usually at the end of the meeting, sometime in the early afternoon.)

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