Deadly Detention

Search our data: 34 Harris County Jail inmates, families sue over treatment and conditions

A person is detained inside a holding cell in the Harris County Joint Processing Center.

A person is detained inside a holding cell in the Harris County Joint Processing Center in Houston. (Marie D. De Jesús / Houston Landing)

Published May 9, 2023

The Houston Landing searched 10 years of county and federal court records to determine the number of lawsuits related to Harris County Jail conditions and treatment filed by current and former Harris County Jail inmates, as well as their family members.

We found 34.

Ten of those lawsuits were related to deaths at the jail. At least seven were settled out of court.A Houston Landing investigation found that nearly 180 people in Texas had been flagged as potentially mentally ill but died in jail instead of getting the care they needed.

Settlement agreement amounts weren’t publicly available in court documents, but the Landing was able to determine that the county has paid at least $3.5 million in three settlements to inmates and their families since 2012, two of which were the result of lawsuits. The other — a $400,000 settlement paid in 2015 to Terry Goodwin, a mentally ill inmate who was left in a jail cell for weeks amongst trash, feces and insects — was settled without taking legal action.

The Landing requested settlement agreements related to the jail from both the Harris County district attorney’s office and the Harris County sheriff’s office, but those were not made available by the time of publication.

Search the names and details of these lawsuits in our interactive table, or click on “get the data” at the bottom of the table to download our entire database.

Are we missing a lawsuit? Please reach out to Alex Stuckey on Twitter or email.

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