Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Dallas County Jails Settle Lawsuit

Via Unfair Park, we learn that the Dallas County Commissioners Court has settled an inmate lawsuit that touched off a U.S. Dept. of Justice investigation of the Dallas County Jails:
Voting unanimously, the commissioners agreed to pay the families of three county inmates $950,000, an extraordinary sum for this type of litigation. Typically, convicted criminals don’t make the most sympathetic victims. But this case was the exception. In 2004, Mims suffered severe renal failure nearly two weeks after jailors left Mims without water for more than 10 days, as punishment for flooding his cell. A subsequent internal affairs investigation concluded that Mims had slipped “through the cracks.” The jail’s medical provider at the time, the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston (UTMB), was also to blame.

Although Mims had been found to be mentally incompetent to stand trial over a period of 25 years, having been transferred between Terrell State Hospital and the county jail during that time, UTMB’s psychiatric staff failed to follow through on three separate referrals from medical personnel to evaluate him. They also failed to provide his prescribed medication. But because of a loophole in its contract with the county, UTMB was not liable for fatal errors.
That's just one example. Here are some others that we've profiled. But as the folks at the Observer point out, things aren't getting much better:
Although Sheriff Jim Bowles ran the jail when Mims and the other inmates were incarcerated, there’s little evidence that things have improved under his replacement Lupe Valdez. A recent U.S. Department of Justice report excoriated both the medical care and the management of the jail, while the Texas Commission of Jail Standards has flunked the facility ever year Valdez has been in office.

“Things have improved, but it’s marginal — they still have a long way to go,” says attorney David Finn, who, along with Fort Worth lawyers Mark Haney and Jeff Kobs, represented Mims. “If they don’t clean up their act quickly, there is a very good chance the DOJ will sue Dallas County and place that jail under federal oversight for five to 10 years.”
The sooner, the better.

1 comment:

Nat-Wu said...

That jail is an embarrassment to justice everywhere. Some may say that the complaints of criminals merit little attention. This would be the idea that it doesn't matter how we treat those we have power over. I assert the opposite: the only thing that is a true judge of our character as a society and the worth of our system of justice is how it treats those it does have power over.