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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Hays County Jail revealed as most violent in Texas

Hays+County+Jail+revealed+as+most+violent+in+Texas
DJ Ross

Hays County has the highest rate of use of force incidents of any jail in the state, a new report published by the Houston Chronicle revealed.

The report comes less than a year after the death of Joshua Wright at the hands of Hays County Corrections Officer Isaiah Garcia. According to the report, a use of force incident is a situation in which an inmate was injured as the result of force being used.

Hays County Jail has an average of 78.3 uses of force incidents per 1000 inmates. Wichita County Jail, which has the second highest use of force rate, only has a rate of 61.1 incidents per 1,000 inmates. 

Cyrus Gray, a former inmate in the Hays County Jail for over four years, said correction officers are encouraged to use force on inmates.

“I’ll say it is largely because of the leadership and it’s just a culture of not just policing in the community, but the culture of policing in the jail. They’re [encouraged] to promote violence and pretty much cause [expletive] every chance they get,” Gray said.

Gray said that force was often the first reaction of correctional officers in the jail.

“It’s not a situation where there’s ever an incident and they come in and try to deescalate the situation and try to calm a situation, or talk it down… They’re coming in and trying to hurt somebody,” Gray said. 

According to the Hays County Jail Dashboard, as of Aug. 27, 73.5% of the inmates in Hays County Jail are still awaiting trial. 

“On any given day over three quarters of our jail population are being held pretrial, meaning that they’ve only been accused of crimes, not convicted,” Sam Benavides, communications director for Mano Amiga, a political activism group advocating for criminal justice reform, said.

This means many of the inmates in Hays County Jail, who are experiencing these “use of force incidents” from correctional officers are yet to be convicted of crimes.

Pretrial inmates are supposed to be assumed innocent until they are convicted in a court of law. According to Gray, the guards regularly violated the presumption of innocence for inmates.

“The big problem extends from the system and the people that are in charge of the system,” Gray said. “These are people that are here to make sure that you aren’t violated and that you’re cared for in the way that you should be given the circumstance.”

According to Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra, when complaints are lodged against the Hays County Jail, they are investigated by three different groups: tThe Sheriff’s Department, the county judge and the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. 

“The sheriff is supposed to address it because they are hands on in that space. Folks have reached out to my office and I have followed up and very often the [complaints] do make their way to the state as well,” Becerra said.

Though Becerra ensured that all complaints are looked into, Gray said that in his personal experience, they were not investigated in enough detail.

“This system has a way of covering its tracks especially in places like Hays County,” Gray said. “When I was in jail and I was set up to be jumped by [Isaiah Garcia] and a bunch of the other ranking officers, I went through every step of the grievance process.”

Gray wrote a letter to the Hays County Sheriff and the Hays County Judge, but his grievance complaints were dismissed with no action being taken.

“I did everything right that you’re supposed to do by law if anything illegal happens to you in jail. I was dismissed and then somebody ended up getting killed by the same person I made all these complaints about,” Gray said.

Gray said that the sheriff did not take his grievances seriously and that his complaint was thrown out.

“The sheriff’s response was that Cyrus Gray is a known liar and he’s just looking for attention,” Gray said.

Isaiah Garcia, who Gray mentioned in his grievance letter, is now facing charges of deadly conduct after the death of Joshua Wright last December.

Becerra was unable to comment on the situation involving Gray’s complaint citing the ongoing case against Garcia, and his duty as an elected and judicial official. 

 

The Sheriff’s office was contacted for a statement but no response was received. 



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