Case: U.S. CRIPA Investigation of Harris County (TX) jail

No Court

Filed Date: June 4, 2009

Case Ongoing

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On March 7, 2008, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division (“DOJ”) notified a Harris County Judge of DOJ’s intention to investigate the conditions at the Harris County Jail (“Jail”). The Jail includes four major jail facilities and had a design capacity of approximately 9800 detainees. At the time of the investigation, the Jail housed over 9400 detainees. The investigation was undertaken under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (“CRIPA”). DOJ lawyers and expert consulta…

On March 7, 2008, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division (“DOJ”) notified a Harris County Judge of DOJ’s intention to investigate the conditions at the Harris County Jail (“Jail”). The Jail includes four major jail facilities and had a design capacity of approximately 9800 detainees. At the time of the investigation, the Jail housed over 9400 detainees. The investigation was undertaken under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (“CRIPA”).

DOJ lawyers and expert consultants reviewed records, interviewed staff and detainees, and inspected the facility living conditions. After two on-site inspections in July and August of 2008, the DOJ issued a Findings Letter to a Harris County Judge on June 4, 2009.

The Findings Letter stated that certain conditions at the jail violated the constitutional rights of detainees. Specifically, DOJ found that the Jail fails to provide detainees with adequate: (1) medical care; (2) mental health care; (3) protection from serious physical harm; and (4) protection from life safety hazards. The Letter also included proposed remedial measures and expressed DOJ’s preference for working cooperatively with the Jail to resolve the deficiencies.

The parties are reportedly still in settlement negotiations, but an investigation conducted by the Houston Chronicle found that many of the problems identified in the June 2009 Letter still existed. According to that November 2015 investigation, 75 people had died in the time since the DOJ’s 2009 Letter, 19 of which died from medical issues that were “either treatable or preventable, or in which delays in care, or staff misconduct, could have played a role in their deaths.”

The case remains open.

Summary Authors

Chris Pollack (2/22/2019)


Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

King, Loretta (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

King, Loretta (District of Columbia)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Investigation of the Harris County Jail

June 4, 2009 Findings Letter/Report

Resources

Title Description External URL

When an Old Law Makes It Hard to Fix a Troubled Jail

Alysia Santo

A federal statute from the Carter era favors negotiation, but that can take a long time. Sept. 13, 2016 https://www.themarshallproject.org/2016/09/13/when-an-old-law-makes-it-hard-to-fix-a-troubled-jail

When an Old Law Makes It Hard to Fix a Troubled Jail

Alysia Santo

The Harris County Jail in Houston is among the nation’s largest, and it’s also one of the most deadly. Within the last decade, scores of inmates have died, often from a lack of prompt medical care or… Sept. 13, 2016 https://www.themarshallproject.org/2016/09/13/when-an-old-law-makes-it-hard-to-fix-a-troubled-jail

Docket

Last updated May 11, 2022, 8 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

State / Territory: Texas

Case Type(s):

Jail Conditions

Key Dates

Filing Date: June 4, 2009

Case Ongoing: Yes

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.

Plaintiff Type(s):

U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Harris County Jail (Harris), County

Defendant Type(s):

Corrections

Case Details

Causes of Action:

Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997 et seq.

Constitutional Clause(s):

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Due Process

Special Case Type(s):

Out-of-court

Availably Documents:

None of the above

Outcome

Prevailing Party: None Yet / None

Nature of Relief:

None yet

Source of Relief:

None yet

Issues

General:

Conditions of confinement

Excessive force

Incident/accident reporting & investigations

Sanitation / living conditions

Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)

Totality of conditions

Medical/Mental Health:

Medical care, general

Medication, administration of

Mental health care, general

Suicide prevention

Type of Facility:

Government-run