Overflowing Toilets, Frigid Cells, No Running Water: Inside Texas' ‘Inhumane' Jails

“The animals at the zoo get better treatment than the inmates in our prison system,” the wife of one inmate said

A group of people being placed under arrest stand by a Harris County Jail bus after protesters were apprehended in a fenced in area on June 2, 2020 in Houston, Texas.
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The massive winter storm that walloped the South this week left thousands of Texans without power and running water. Inside the walls of several Texas prisons and jails, incarcerated people have faced abominable conditions, according to interviews with inmates, family members and advocates.

Many facilities have gone long stretches with no heat, leaving inmates shivering in their cells. A lack of running water has caused toilets to overflow and people to go days without a shower. Advocates say the unsanitary conditions coupled with the threat of the coronavirus has fueled concerns of deadly outbreaks.

“We could have prevented this mounting public health crisis by taking a smart approach to depopulating our jails,” said Krish Gundu, executive director of the Texas Jail Project, an inmate advocacy group. “But we chose not to. Now we have to pay the price.”

The vast majority of people locked up in county jails have been accused of crimes but have not yet had a chance to go to trial or otherwise fight the charges.

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