Houston mother calls for changes at Harris County Jail after son’s in-custody death; new inspection report lists several deficiencies at facility

HOUSTON – A Houston mother is calling for changes at the Harris County Jail after her son died almost a year ago at the facility.

“I’m just one person, but I have did everything that I could to keep up enough noise with the right people and the right ears for a change. These polices in this building need to change,” Jacilet Griffin said.

On Saturday, family and community members held a march and vigil to remember 31-year-old Evan Lee, who died while in custody.

A new inspection report from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards revealed several deficiencies at the county jail that involved staffing and routine observations.

Griffin hasn’t been able to get any answers about her son’s death and says the jail needs to make improvements.

“It’s been 353 days today that my son was murdered here in the Harris County Jail, and I don’t have any answers,” she said.

The mother says her son’s death was ruled a homicide.

“He was in jail unfortunately under an error. There was an error in the system from a previous charge,” she said.

Griffin says Lee was a passionate person who loved working on dirt bikes and four-wheelers. She says Lee had medical conditions that the jail was aware of.

“I have started a bill for my son so that those policies, especially for those that are ill with medical issues, they need to be detoured in a different location and not detained in a building that’s not designed for a long-term stay,” Griffin said.

Last year, 27 inmates died while in custody at the Harris County Jail, according to KPRC 2 records. Four deaths were reported in January of this year. For months, there has been complaints of overcrowding, long jail stays and understaffing.

“The policies here are definitely broken,” Griffin said.

KPRC 2 obtained a copy of a jail inspection report sent to Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Sheriff Ed Gonzalez last week that highlighted several deficiencies at the jail.

The report says:

  • Inmates were in holding anywhere from 63 to 70 hours.
  • Inmates were not seen by medical staff within 48 hours, as required by facility operation plan.
  • In December of 2022, the jail was placed in non-compliance for failing to follow a physician’s orders and provide medication to an inmate as directed.

Families like Griffin say something needs to change.

According to the report, the sheriff and county judge will have to appear before the jail commission later this year and explain what’s being done to correct the problems.

As for Griffin, she says she will continue to fight.

KPRC 2′s Re’Chelle Turner reached out to Sheriff Gonzalez and a spokesperson from the jail for a comment but have not heard back.

Previous inmate deaths:

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