80% of those who Died of Covid-19 in Texas County Jails were Never Convicted of a Crime

Over 230 people have died from Covid-19 in Texas’s correctional facilities — and in county jails, nearly 80 percent of them were in pretrial detention and hadn’t even been convicted of a crime.

At least 231 people have died of Covid-19 in the state’s correctional facilities between March and October.

The 231 figure is likely to be a conservative count.

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GOVERNOR GREG ABBOTT SHRUGS

While prison officials insist they’re doing their best in the face of an unprecedented crisis, Governor Greg Abbott has largely ignored the pandemic inside the Texas prison system.

Since March, prison reformers and advocates for incarcerated people have urged Abbott to take steps to lower the prison population, which experts say is the best way to reduce the risk for prisoners, prison staff, and the communities to which they’ll return.

About 77,000 people incarcerated by TDCJ are eligible for parole.

Another 15,000 people have been approved for release and are waiting for counseling, substance abuse classes, or other programs they’re required to finish before leaving lockup—programs that prisoners claim have been delayed during the pandemic.

Some of those people have serious health problems that make them more susceptible to the virus.

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STATISTICALLY HEARTBREAKING

Texas prisons see more than 38,000% spike in coronavirus cases.

An analysis by the KVUE Defenders found cases of coronavirus among Texas prisoners increased by more than 38,000% during April. On May 1, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) reported 1,151 offenders have tested positive in TDCJ facilities.

The KVUE Defenders reported only three offenders had tested positive back on April 1.

That increase of more than 1,000 cases amounts to a 38,267% spike. “That’s a drastic spike for people that are behind bars and are not even allowed outside of the prison,” Texas Inmate Families Association (TIFA) representative Monica Garza said. “So our question is, how is that even possible?”

Garza said she and other members of TIFA are worried about how quickly cases of COVID-19 are rising in Texas prisons. As of May 1, TDCJ records 19 prisoner deaths presumed to be related to COVID-19. Another eight deaths are pending autopsy results.

Meanwhile, 19,905 offenders are on medical restrictions and 1,103 offenders are in medical isolation.

“How many more deaths are we going to have?” Garza asked. “It’s very scary for the families at home, very concerning. We don’t know what’s happening to our loved ones, especially the ones on lockdown. So, for a lot of us, it’s just a very scary situation.”

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