Arrested then Assaulted in Texas: Jailers and Guards Caught on Video
The suicide of 28-year-old Sandra Bland got lots of people talking about the goings-on in local jails here in Texas. Ms. Bland died last July in the Waller County Jail, and the autopsy concluded that she committed suicide by hanging. Sandra Bland had said some things that should have warned her jailers that she was a suicide risk, but sadly those warnings of suicidal thinking went unheeded.
Now, down in Austin there’s talk about passing laws that might help future inmates with a risk of suicide to be better protected from themselves. Things like better screening of folk as they come into a Texas jail facility as well as better monitoring of inmates have been discussed. Also, a great idea — to increase the number of surprise jail inspections, where state authorities pop up unannounced at various facilities to see how things are going.
The Texas Commission on Jail Standards has responded to the tragic death of Sandra Bland by changing the intake form that is to be used in Texas. It’s longer now. It’s got lots more questions, all designed to discern the mental state of the inmate — are they depressed? Are they a danger to themselves?
- The TCJS revised Instructions for Suicide and Medical / Mental / Development Impairments Form is available online.
- The revised (October 2015) TCJS Screening Form for Suicide and Medical/Mental/Developmental Impairments can be read online as well.
Here’s a video of that traffic stop arrest of Sandra Bland. It’s terribly sad to think that her bail was only $5000 and she sat there for 3 days before her death in that county jail.
Assaults on Inmates in Texas Jails
The dangers of Texas jails don’t end with the Sandra Bland tragedy, unfortunately. More people need to be aware of the risk of inmates being hurt and beaten by law enforcement (police officers, jail guards, etc.) that are tasked with holding these people and curtailing their freedom.
Remember, innocent people are arrested every day. Just because someone is arrested does not mean that they are guilty.
But when you — or a loved one — is arrested, then you need to be VERY AWARE of the dangerous environment that you are entering. Dangerous not because of others who have also been arrested. No. Dangerous because you might get beaten and seriously injured by the jailers and guards and officers assigned to oversee your jail time.
Consider the following stories coming out of large Texas jails in the past six months (never mind what mind be happening at the smaller jails around the state):
1. Dallas Jailer Kicks Inmate in Stomach: Caught on Body Cam
Last summer, Dallas County Jail Guard Dee Hart was fired after serving five years on the job with the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department. A body camera caught the event, where jailers were trying to get an inmate under control and the Dallas jailer kicks the inmate when he’s down. Gotta wonder what would have happened without that body cam — Hart had a clean record before this happened (no disciplinary history with the department).
See the Dallas Jailer Assault Video here:
2. San Antonio Jail Sexual Assault on Inmate: Surveillance Video
An inmate filed a criminal complaint down in San Antonio against a Bexar County Sheriff’s Department detention deputy, Erick Montez, alleging that he sexually assaulted her in the back of a van during the process of the inmate being moved from the Bexar County Annex to the Bexar County Jail. This happened during the last week of December 2015.
Her complaint alleged that the van was pulled over, the deputy left his seat in the front of the van and went back to where she was being held in the back of the van, and raped her.
The Deputy later admitted to the crime. The fact that the event was recorded on a surveillance video undoubtedly was a factor in this case. (We were unable to locate any excerpts from that video online to share here.)
3. Houston Jailer Beats Handcuffed Inmate: Surveillance Video
Over in Houston, another jailer has already admitted his crime against an inmate as Houston Police Department civilian jailer Lasswon Shannon was videotaped beating a handcuffed, mentally ill inmate in his small, padded jail cell there in the Harris County jail.
Shannon has been on the job for six years before this incident. His explanation? He thought he needed to “control the situation.”
To see the official surveillance video, check out this news report from a local television station who obtained a copy through the Freedom of Information Act:
The Risk of Jail Assaults After an Arrest in Texas
The above jail assault videos, all occurring within the past few months, are just a few examples. There are countless others out there.
Which brings us to the point: if you are being investigated by any kind of criminal authority, then you need to be proactive in protecting your rights and safeguarding yourself from harm in the event that you are arrested on a charge.
This isn’t an issue of guilt or innocence. It’s an issue of dangerous conditions in Texas jail facilities, and the fact that so little is known about what goes on in these places. The only reason that we really know about these three examples above is because there were cameras recording what was happening.
Absent a camera, it’s a case of he said – she said, all too often. And the stigma of being the inmate usually works to discredit the inmate’s story, no matter how truthful and honest they may be.
It’s dangerous to be behind bars. The jailers can, and do, hurt people who are contained, sometimes even handcuffed, and vulnerable.
If you can avoid an arrest by being proactive in doing things like having a defense attorney battle for you in grand jury proceedings, then you escape the risk of a jailer assault. Read more about that here.
If you are arrested, then having an attorney to fight for you and getting out on bail as soon as possible is limiting your exposure to the risk of a jailer assault.
For more on bail in Dallas and NorthTexas, check out this article by Michael Lowe:
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