Informing the public about our data, our findings and what the data means is of the utmost importance to the Texas Justice Initiative. More information about our data sets can be found here, and all of our data is available through data.world (free account required) here. Below, you’ll find the Texas Justice Initiative’s latest press releases and reports.
Pre-conviction deaths in Texas jails since 2005
In this dashboard, the Texas Justice Initiative examines cases of individuals who have died in county jails before going to trial. These individuals have not been convicted of a crime but were all arrested on criminal charges and held in a county jail, and therefore their deaths must be reported as “custodial deaths” to the state’s Oﬃce of the Attorney General. TJI uses those reports to populate our Custodial Death Records database. Here, we filtered our data for individuals who died in jails before being convicted of a crime – and in some cases, before even being charged in connection with a crime.
Some 48% of all the fatalities over a 13-year period were attributed to “natural causes” in the reports, while 26.3% were labeled as “suicides.” Half of the deaths of individuals awaiting trial took place within their first eight days of incarceration.
Life and Death in a Carceral State (2018)
In 2017, TJI partnered with the Texas After Violence Project to document the experiences people who have been directly impacted by the criminal justice system in Texas. The result was a 25-minute-long video with in-depth interviews with five individuals who speak about topics like:
- Custodial deaths caused by “natural causes”: 90% of deaths in Texas prisons are classified this way;
- Pregnancy: Thousands of pregnant women are booked into Texas county jails each year, and 165 women gave birth while incarcerated in 2016;
- Officer-involved shootings: About 169 people are shot by Texas law enforcement each year, with about half causing fatalities;
- Harris County Jail suicides: The facility houses 13% of the state’s jail population and reports having 3% of the suicides in Texas jails.
Officer-Involved Shootings and Custodial Deaths in Texas (2018)
Since 2005, there have been 8,730 deaths of civilians in the custody of Texas law enforcement. In the past decade, officer-involved shootings in Texas have been on the rise. Data obtained from the Texas Office of the Attorney General shows that since Sept. 1, 2015, there have been 466 civilians shot by Texas law enforcement, and 78 officers have been shot.
Officers involved in shootings skew younger and male than the general population of Texas law enforcement officers. Overall, most deaths that occur in Texas law enforcement custody are due to natural causes, but that nearly half of all deaths of inmates housed alone in a jail cell are suicides.
Texas Custodial Death Report (2016)
From 2005 to 2015, a reported 6,913 people died in the custody of law enforcement and other state officials in Texas. More than 1,900 of the people who died (28%) had not been convicted of, or in many cases, even charged with a crime. Despite recent growing interest in counting and reporting on custodial and police-involved deaths, most of the nearly 7,000 people who died have never had their stories told, and aggregate data regarding the manner and locations of their deaths have not been widely available.