Civil rights attorney Ben Crump was in Houston recently, calling on the Department of Justice to investigate the significant trend in deaths at the Harris County jail.
Crump was joined by family members of inmates who died while in custody at the jail.
“If that were your loved one, you’d say, ‘shut this down until you can guarantee us that my loved one isn’t going to die at the hands of the people who are supposed to protect them.’ Politicians can’t keep hiding behind words like it’s systemic, that we have an investigation going on,” Crump said.
Crump’s request comes days after families of Harris County Jail victims demanded answers from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards during the agency’s quarterly meeting in Austin last week. The group of families sought answers from Harris County and Texas’ jail oversight agency after 28 people died in custody last year, which was the jail’s deadliest year in a decade.
Crump represents the families of George Floyd, Tyre Nichols and Jacoby Pillow, who died in Harris County Jail in January.
Pillow’s family says he was in the process of being released on a $100 bond for a misdemeanor trespassing charge when he was involved in an altercation with jail personnel.
According to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office’s report on his death, Pillow was detained inside a medical holding cell awaiting evaluation at the jail’s clinic and Mental Health Unit. The Sheriff’s Office said in the report that Pillow “swung at an officer,” and that “officers fought with [Pillow] as they struggled to gain control of him.” He was found dead on Jan. 3.
Since then, three more detainees have died in custody.
“The facts of this case are extremely alarming, and they point to a pattern and culture of inmate abuse that we have seen before in Harris County facilities,” Crump said. “There is no legitimate excuse for this young man to have lost his life for an arrest on a misdemeanor charge right as he was about to get out on bail. We need the Harris County Sheriff’s Office to be completely transparent with the Pillow family as they search for the details of what happened to Jacoby that night and why he didn’t make it out of jail alive.”