Micheal Alexis, a detainee at the Hays County Jail, spoke with Community Impact Newspaper about the conditions inside the jail. (Evelin Garcia/ Community Impact Newspaper)
Recent national reports from the New York Times database indicate prisons and jails have quickly become one of the nations biggest clusters of coronavirus cases. The number of positive cases among detainees housed at the Hays County Jail and those who have been outsourced, has nearly tripled since June 22.
As of July 30, 106 detainees have tested positive for the virus, which has infected about 24% of the jails population, according to the Hays County Sheriffs Office.
The overcrowded jail cost taxpayers $3.86 million in fiscal year 2018-19 to outsource detainees to Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Guadalupe, Fort Bend and Walker counties, but with a global pandemic in play and no room for detainees to keep a safe distance, the overcrowded jail may come with a higher price tag for detainees: their well-being.
In a statement to Community Impact Newspaper, Hays County Deputy Sheriff Bruce Harlan wrote: All inmates are given masks and medical screening upon arrival in the jail. If they refuse to take a mask or refuse to wear it, we cannot make them do so. If they lose theirs, one will be replaced within a reasonable time.
However, several detainees claimed that to be untrue.
The holding areas were full. I got there the night of July 7they didnt give me a mask, soap or a test until the third or fourth day I was there. I couldnt wash my hands; there was no soap or toilet paper in the restroom, said Joshua Williams, a resident of Kyle, a cancer survivor and amputee with emphysema, who was taken into custody for a Class B misdemeanor and released seven days later.
Inmates are provided cleaning supplies daily, and upon request. Personal hygienesoapfor the inmates to maintain personal care continues to be judiciously provided by request at no cost to the inmate, Harlan wrote.
Detainees speak about jail conditions
Even after speaking about his pre-existing conditions and compromised immune system, Williams said he did not receive a mask or test upon arrival. Instead, he was placed in a crowded rec room where conditions were filthy.
They absolutely knew of my situation, but I didnt get quarantine until about the fourth day I was in there, Williams said.
He said he was eventually placed in one of the jails four infirmaries, the only place where detainees can truly be quarantined. He also noted that some nurses and the majority of correctional officers were not wearing personal protective equipment.
While he was in jail, Williams said he did not receive a proper meal, and he was denied prescribed medication for his chronic pain, even after getting confirmation from his doctor.
According to Harlan, the majority of detainees who tested positive for COVID-19 were not experiencing symptoms of the virus, and the jails medical team routinely monitored those detainees.
Harlan said jail officials issued 250-300 masks a week, but many detainees have not been wearing them in their housing units.
Michael Alexis, a detainee who said he had been in custody for about a year while awaiting court dates, tested positive for COVID-19 in late June. He said he did not receive any medical attention after exhibiting symptoms, including shortness of breath, fatigue and no taste or smell. He said he had been using the same disposable mask since mid-June.
They just started giving us masks a few weeks ago, Alexis said.
To Alexis knowledge, testing of detainees did not start until June 1, but jail officials contend that testing for the virus began April 24.
Our medical team routinely monitors inmates. If one of our inmates would experience any symptoms that need medical attention they are instructedto both verbally and in writingon how to report symptoms in order to receive treatment, Harlan wrote in response to detainees allegations.
Alexis said he knew of three riots protesting the poor conditions that occurred in June.
Lt. Dennis Gutierrez from the Hays County Sheriffs Office confirmed that detainees did riot in late June, and the Hays County SWAT team was called to quell the situation.
They barricaded windows, they tried to set fires [inside the jail], but [riots] had nothing to do with the safety conditionsit was about being tested, Gutierrez said. They demanded to get tested right then and there ... there were no injuries.
Alexis said he thinks following media coverage of the jails lack of safety conditions, local TV news channels were censored by jail officials. In early July, he said news channels disappeared, although they still received newspapers.
He also noted an incident in which a page featuring his sisters speaking about the jails lack of safety practices was missing from his newspaper.
Decisions about which TV channels would be available were recently reviewed. As a result, changes were made to add channels that would appeal to the larger population of inmates, Harlan wrote.
Multiple handwritten letters provided to Community Impact Newspaper through a nonprofit that seeks criminal justice reformMano Amigarevealed that other detainees shared the same experiences as Williams and Alexis at the county jail.
Rick Selman, a detainee who has been behind bars since 2018, wrote in a letter to Mano Amiga about facing delays with his case for the past 15 months. In his letter, he also detailed the lack of masks and proper disinfectant provided by the jail.
Honestly, masks started to be given on July 1, Selman wrote in a letter to Mano Amiga. Few people got masks before, like me, because we found one at work.
Selman said although guards sanitize twice a day, they use generic Fabuloso and Pine-Sol as a disinfectant.
I know for a fact because I did the disinfecting of dorms for months, Selman said.
Neither cleaner is listed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an approved disinfectant for COVID-19.
According to Harlan, the facility is using Halt disinfectant, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved hospital-grade disinfectant.
Multiple other detainees cite in their letters the lack of medication, medical attention and healthy food options to recover from the virus. In a letter, a detainee asks the nonprofit for help and pleads to be deported to his home county to seek medical attention.
Officials consider selective releases
As health experts confirmed prisons and jails are now an epicenter of the coronavirus, some states and counties started to release detainees to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Local activists in Hays County organized demonstrations to demand that pretrial detainees be released amid the pandemic as most of these are victims of a clogged criminal legal system who are sitting in jail for months because they cannot afford bail.
According to Gutierrez, there were about 366 pretrial detainees in a jail population of 435, or 84.14%. That number includes 180 detainees who have been transferred to other counties due to overcrowding.
District judges in Hays County, along with other criminal justice officials, met in March to discuss depopulation of the jail. That led to the release of some detainees, according to Hays County District Judge Bill Henry.
Henry said he could not speak for the rest of the countys judges, but he has been reviewing his cases for any potential releases.
I am continuously reviewing my cases on these issues. Ive made some progress, but there are things on which I cannot approve, Henry said.
Local nonprofit aids detainees
On the heels of a global pandemic at play inside the county jail, Mano Amiga launched the first bail fund in the county ahead of schedule with grants from the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Foundation and the Bail Project. Bail funds assist detainees who cannot afford their bail.
The nonprofit has helped release about 18 detainees since the launch of the bail fund.
Pretrial detainees, legally innocent people who have only been charged but not convicted of a crime, account for the majority of our jail population; many of them there because they are simply too poor to afford their own freedom, Mano Amiga Policy Director Eric Martinez said. Were punishing poor community members for their poverty with a fatal virus when wealthy people accused of the same offenses are able to buy their freedom by posting bail and eluding the deadly pandemic.
See the article here:
- New consumers driven to the RVing lifestyle fuel solid growth for Winnebago - Minneapolis Star Tribune - October 24th, 2020
- Governor Abbott named Best Governor in the Nation by ALEC, conservative economists - KXXV News Channel 25 - October 24th, 2020
- Freedom Healthcare Staffing Wins Denver Business Journal Fast 50 Award - PRNewswire - October 24th, 2020
- Lawmakers need to get federal funding to ease MBTA woes - Boston Herald - October 24th, 2020
- Classes to resume soon for final-years at state universities - University World News - October 24th, 2020
- Last Week in Slovenia: 16-22 October, 2020 - Total Slovenia News - October 24th, 2020
- Where They Stand: John Jacob - Daily Journal - October 24th, 2020
- Rep. Cynthia Lummis Speaks to Voters in Thermopolis | - mybighornbasin - October 24th, 2020
- Letters to the editor - News - The Hutchinson News - October 24th, 2020
- Taxpayer Tricks and Treats for Halloween 2020 - Business Wire - October 24th, 2020
- Parliament body: Freedom Fighters' monthly honorarium to be raised to Tk20,000 from Tk12,000 - Dhaka Tribune - October 24th, 2020
- Corporate Consultants Set Their Targets on American Universities - The Nation - October 24th, 2020
- Boebert incapable of being an independent voice negotiating on our behalf - The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel - October 8th, 2020
- How USAID Translates The Executive Order On Advancing International Religious Freedom Into Action - Forbes - October 8th, 2020
- The Case Against Trump: Donald Trump Is an Enemy of Freedom - Reason - October 8th, 2020
- D.R. Horton, Inc. to Release 2020 Fourth Quarter and Fiscal Year-End Earnings on November 10, 2020 - Business Wire - October 8th, 2020
- Inslee, Culp meet in first and only governor's debate - Thehour.com - October 8th, 2020
- Everything We Just Learned About The Navy's Dubious Path To A 500 Ship Fleet - The Drive - October 8th, 2020
- Civil society raises alarm about IMF's continued backing of austerity amidst pandemic - Bretton Woods Observer - October 8th, 2020
- NCC to invite experts to CtiTV News hearing - - October 8th, 2020
- Candidates want to represent district in Statehouse - The Herald - October 8th, 2020
- The Toss-up: Virginia's 7th Congressional District race may be one of the nation's closest - Chesterfield Observer - October 8th, 2020
- Waukon City Council hears restaurant proposal for former JCPenney/Tierney's building, leaves trick-or-treat participation decision this year up to... - October 8th, 2020
- Abbotsford West candidates spar on Highway 1, light rail, housing and snap election - Abbotsford News - October 8th, 2020
- Noem urges legislators to carefully follow US Treasury guidelines while deciding how to spend a portion of the state's Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars... - October 8th, 2020
- The Social Cost Of COVID-19 - The ASEAN Post - September 8th, 2020
- Stalwarts who founded and built the UNP must be turning in their graves - NewsIn.Asia - September 8th, 2020
- 2020 could be the year of 'peak Democrat' in Colorado. This is why. - Colorado Springs Gazette - September 8th, 2020
- Trump and the RNC should remind Cuban voters of Fidel Castro, not their political home - NBC News - August 31st, 2020
- Analysis: Will Uzbekistan's Champion of Reform Stay the Course? - Voice of America - August 31st, 2020
- It's Never Been More Clear: Fare Hikes Won't Save the MBTA - Boston magazine - August 31st, 2020
- Libertarians Took Control of This Small Town. It Didn't End Well. - Washington Monthly - August 31st, 2020
- Point-Counterpoint: Benefits will outweigh the consequences for college football this fall - University of Pittsburgh The Pitt News - August 31st, 2020
- Fact-checking the first night of the 2020 Republican National Convention - Poynter - August 31st, 2020
- Moody's: Coronavirus is accelerating shift to online education - Education Dive - August 31st, 2020
- Corbella: Facts and fairness show public sector workers should have their pay cut - Calgary Herald - August 31st, 2020
- Fred Perpall, CEO of The Beck Group, says Blacks and whites need to be more inclusive - The Dallas Morning News - August 31st, 2020
- Could On-Campus Housing At Local Universities Lead To COVID-19 Outbreaks? - NBC San Diego - August 31st, 2020
- Explained: What to look for in GDP data today - The Indian Express - August 31st, 2020
- 35th District Race Brings Three Options to Clinton, Killingworth, and Westbrook - Zip06.com - August 31st, 2020
- Beware the Chinese Economy Recovery Trap - JAPAN Forward - August 31st, 2020
- At RNC, here's what Trump, Republicans have to say our country and economy if they want to win - Fox Business - August 31st, 2020
- When we went to remote learning I could feel every teacher's eyes on me - Sydney Morning Herald - August 31st, 2020
- Bad bank not only necessary but unavoidable in present situation: Subbarao - THE WEEK - August 31st, 2020
- MORSE denies allegations of INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR State REOPENING is on PAUSE Senate race gets NEGATIVE - Politico - August 10th, 2020
- Austerity: Another officer retires, rehired by Odisha government - The New Indian Express - August 10th, 2020
- Media Training Workshop on Using the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act for Investigative Reports on Campaign Fi - The Nigerian Voice - August 10th, 2020
- The Endowment is Not the Issue - Harvard Political Review - August 10th, 2020
- DAILY VOICE: Four reasons why IT stocks are hitting 52-week highs - Moneycontrol.com - August 10th, 2020
- Kashmiris Lament the Loss of Their Youth - Foreign Policy - August 10th, 2020
- SLPP has creatively disrupted politics; now it has to do the same to the economy - ft.lk - August 10th, 2020
- More freedom to banks, further rate cut not ruled out: 10 key takeaways from policy meet - Economic Times - August 9th, 2020
- In HBO film, Ken Buck suggests he will leave Congress soon - The Denver Post - August 9th, 2020
- Biden's Climate Plan Would Put Us on the Road to Serfdom - The Heartland Institute - August 9th, 2020
- Krishi Kalyan & Cashew India App: Farmers Breathe Sigh of Relief As Government Aims To Revive Indian Agro Industry - The Indian Wire - August 9th, 2020
- How Attacks on Faith, Family, and Conscience Threaten All Our Freedoms - Daily Signal - August 8th, 2020
- Military Alliances, Partnerships Strengthened Through Defense Strategy Execution - Department of Defense - August 8th, 2020
- @theMarket: The Economy Versus the Stock Market - iBerkshires.com - August 8th, 2020
- UK housing is on the agenda. How do we really build back better? - Big Issue - August 8th, 2020
- Letter: You'd think police would have better things to do than silence street musicians - Seacoastonline.com - August 5th, 2020
- Secretary Michael R. Pompeo Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the Fiscal Year 2021 State Department Budget Request - US Embassy in... - August 5th, 2020
- Brcko District to improve the Fiscal Discipline and Transparency of Expenditure of Public Funds - Sarajevo Times - August 5th, 2020
- How to find a pubmedia job in a pandemic - Current - August 5th, 2020
- Don't tell the separatists but Alberta is lapping up federal aid in record amounts - iPolitics.ca - August 5th, 2020
- Guest opinion: Address to C-SD Class of 2020 - Dorchester Banner - Dorchester Banner - August 5th, 2020
- Making sure the U.S. military remains the best in the world - Brookings Register - August 5th, 2020
- Mailbag: 'Choose life and success' over COVID-19 - Los Angeles Times - August 5th, 2020
- With Trump reelection uncertain, GOP battles over its future - Los Angeles Times - August 4th, 2020
- Leading the Way on Higher Education Reform through Smart Giving - Philanthropy Magazine - August 4th, 2020
- Let's be blunt about it: Russ Diamond is a jerk - The Times of Chester County - August 4th, 2020
- College Football Needs to Change. The Pac-12s Players Are Making That Happen. - The Ringer - August 4th, 2020
- Fiscal Freedom - The Heritage Foundation - August 2nd, 2020
- Gen Z GOP wants to build the Republican Party of the future - Boston Herald - August 2nd, 2020
- Rallying cry: 'There is no reason this statue needs to be moved' - messenger-inquirer - August 2nd, 2020
- No Europe Without the Rule of Law by Harold James - Project Syndicate - August 2nd, 2020
- Today's Headlines and Commentary - Lawfare - August 2nd, 2020
- Faculty push back on how colleges are planning for the fall - Education Dive - August 2nd, 2020
- Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles Converters Market 2020 Analysis by Geographical Regions, Type and Application Till 2026 with Top Key Players - Owned - August 2nd, 2020
- New release shows the value of the Union to the nations of the UK - GOV.UK - August 2nd, 2020
- LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: School administration in Middletown is dysfunctional - The Providence Journal - August 1st, 2020