You get a call in the middle of the night or day and the caller i.d. shows the call is originating from the county jail. Perhaps you expected this call because of a family member or friends addictions, violent behavior, “clepto” tendencies, you just knew they would end up there someday, or the last place they were known to be was a city jail. You throw caution to the wind and answer.
The latest numbers in Texas show that 65,269 persons are being housed in one of the 254 county facilities in Texas. Because of the phone call you now know one of those persons personally. If you live in a lessor populated area in Texas chances are the person you know may be one of a handful of people in the jail. If you live in a heavily populated area the person you know is in a large facility that could be housing thousands. Tarrant County, Fort Worth, (the county I reside in) is housing 4050 inmates at 81% operating space. Harris County, the Houston area, is housing 8167 inmates utilizing 77% operating space. Compare these two counties to Knox County that has 7 inmates and is operating at 50% of its total capacity. By the numbers some of the county jails in Texas are operating at capacities that are over crowded, underfunded, and understaffed. It should be noted that the USA operates on the belief of innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Being arrested is not a court of law and should not be seen as a verdict of guilt being in jail is not equal to being guilty. The county jail is a place to hold persons accused of crimes. The populations can vary with the accused and those with prior convictions but for now let’s deal with our caller as someone that has not been to court and is facing their first time in the system.
I am guessing that your caller is male. This might be a good guess but Texas has more women behind bars than any other state. The person you know may be one of the growing number of transgender populations but before we become mired in more numbers and statistics… let’s return to the call. Let’s place your caller in a jail comparable in population to the Tarrant County Jail, 4050 inmates at 81% operating space. As stated earlier most county jails are overcrowded, underfunded, and understaffed.
Why should you be concerned about your caller being housed in a county jail that is overcrowded, underfunded, and understaffed? We will take a quick look at overcrowding and deal with the others as time allows.
The definition of overcrowd is to fill (accommodations or a space) beyond what is comfortable, safe, or permissible. How do we define it in terms of your caller? This will depend on the mental acuity of the person that has called and I will now refer to them as an Inmate. The Inmate and comfort. Should comfort even be considered for someone in the county jail? Yes, because comfort may be as simple as a place to get the required hours of sleep or enough calories in a meal to keep you healthy. I am not suggesting luxuries but basic human needs at an acceptable level of comfort. What does that look like for you? Safety, is someone in the county jail safe? Yes, but in terms of physical assault the chances increase because of the close proximity to other known and convicted violent inmates often housed in the same cell as a first time Inmate. Safety could be acceptable noise levels, heating, clothing, access to visitors. Could safety be equated to medical care? How safe is someone with mental health issues that go undiagnosed or ignored? Permissible what is a permissible amount of inmates? Texas says that up to 72 inmates can be housed together with one officer watching over them. Some facilities have placed bunked beds in cells doubling the amount of inmates in a cell without increasing the dimensions of the cell. What does all this mean for your first time Inmate? They are in a different world for them it will seem like a parallel universe without meaning, without hope, without end.
The Author of Asylum2880 worked in a county jail and has volunteered at numerous prisons within the State of Texas. Hebrews 13:3