Inmate Death Renews Cry for Federal Probe of Harris County Jail

DSCF3942-1When Kenneth Christopher Lucas was picked up and taken to the Harris County Jail on Feb. 12, he had no idea that he would not be leavingAlive

After the Harris County Sheriff’s In-House Response Unit for an alleged disturbance, Lucas, 38, was subdued, restrained and found unconscious a short time later. He was taken for medical treatment, but was pronounced dead on Feb. 17.

“What happened here is not only ridiculous, but also and shows the outright disrespect for African-Americans by the Harris County Sheriffs Office,” said Houston Activist Quanell X. “We believe this Black man’s human rights were violated and we are asking for a full and complete investigation into this matter.”

According to reports, Lucas allegedly was jailed for being late returning his children from a joint custody agreement with his estranged wife. According to reports, he became upset after his court appearance and allegedly was being disruptive and dismantling a smoke detector when the response unit was called in. The death is under investigation by Harris County officials.

Harris County Sheriff’s Office is the largest sheriff’s office in Texas and the third largest in the United States.

Quanell X said it is the 137th incident reported in Harris County where an inmate death occurred in custody – a fact that should alarm anyone with loves ones currently in the facility or who may get booked downtown.

Conditions at the jail have been under scrutiny in the past. Several years ago, the Department of Justice issued a list of findings to the county, claiming the conditions at the jail violated the inmates’ civil rights. Among some of those findings were insufficient medical care, failure to prevent suicides, poor sanitation, overcrowding and a lack of protection from excessive force. In that same study, the Department of Justice found the number of inmate deaths to be alarming then and called for changes.

Quanell X is seeking justice in the case and calling for officials to open a new independent investigation by the Texas Rangers and the Federal Bureau of Investigation into Lucas’ death and other problems at the facility. Prior to his death, Lucas had no apparent history of health problems, according to Quanell X.

Special Agent Shauna Dunlap, spokesperson for the Houston FBI, said that the agency does review cases involving use of excessive force and other related issues, but so far it has not been reported.

“We encourage people to report any potential violations of federal law,” she said. “People can also contact us with allegations and questions about potential excessive force or whether an inmate’s 8th amendment rights were violated.”

Of great concern also is the silence, lack of contact and outreach to the family by the Sheriff’s office after Lucas died.

“It is insulting to think that this can happen over a week ago and no one has contacted the wife or the mother to update them on anything,” he said. “There has not even been a chaplain sent from the sheriff’s office for the family.”

Harris County Deputy Media Relations/Public information Officer Thomas M Gilliland issued a statement to African-American News and Issues regarding the death of Lucas.

“This case is unfortunate and our prayers are with Mr. Lucas and his family,” he said. “The HCSO takes all cases involving the loss of life seriously. As in all in custody deaths, our homicide and internal affairs divisions are conducting intensive, parallel investigations.”

Gilliland added that as of his last check on the case, the official cause of death had not been determined.

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3 Comments

  1. Y B-C

    What are the procedures from the Department of Justice when inmate dies? Where are the follow-ups for the ‘findings’ at the jail? How long does the county have to fix the findings? What are the penalties if actions are not completed. I believe an inquiry should be written to search what is being done to make the county jail comply to state and federal standards.

  2. Alana Caldwell

    Please know that this is not race issue. Harrs County Jail tried their best to kill my son who is white. There are many people in the Harris County Jail that have died or nealy died n many various ways. There needs to be a major investigation. The Harris County Jail is run by aa bunch of barbaric power tripping men and women that have no conscience and I have no understanding how they can live with themselves.
    I wrote of our ordeal of my son’s near death experiencs in Harris County Jail in the Texas jail project (www.texasjailproject.org) May 2013 look in archives “A mother reports on Harris County Jail”.
    I

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