Families of inmates who died at Harris Co. jail push for more clarity from local leaders

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) — Jacilet Griffin’s son died inside the Harris County Jail more than a year ago, and she’s trying to get answers about what happened.

During this time, she’s also been advocating for better policies and care for inmates inside the jail.

ABC13 spoke with her earlier this year about her son’s death. She said he was suffering from mental health issues and shouldn’t have been put in an area where violent offenders are housed.

Community members and elected officials hosted a community event to discuss changes they say need to be made inside of the jail to prevent other deaths.

ORIGINAL STORY: Mother of Harris County inmate who died in custody questions what happened: ‘We just need to know’

One of the changes includes diverting patients suffering from mental health issues to a different facility rather than being taken right to jail.

“She’s trying to say they should not be detained in the same cell as someone who is accused of a heinous crime,” Harris County Public Defender’s Office Criminal Investigator John Lewis said.

The group also asked for Sheriff Randy Hargrove to comply with state mandates, including making sure there is enough of jail staff. During an ABC13 investigation, we reported the Commission on Jail Standards may need to house inmates outside of the county because of overcrowding and a lack of staffing.

SEE 13 INVESTIGATES REPORT: Harris County Jail says it’s no longer ‘stretching the standards’ for booking area

Overcrowding is another concern for the group. They are asking for the district attorney’s office to consider dismissing non-violent felony cases older than nine months to prevent offenders from getting stuck in jail for months on end before a trial.

“Unfortunately, there are people in the court system that are detained, and in her son’s case, he died while being locked up, and he never got the chance to go to court,” Lewis said.

Over the last year, the jail has also been cited for failing to provide necessary medication to an inmate who later died. Already this year, there have been 11 reported deaths. In 2022, there were 28, including Griffin’s son.

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