Val Verde County Jail, Del Rio, Texas
Juan* spent 7 months in forced solitary confinement in dangerous and dirty conditions while waiting for a trial in Val Verde County. The Val Verde County Jail is operated as a for-profit institution by the private prison corporation GEO Group. This story is told by his sister, Maria.
My brother was put in a cell by himself with only a gown. We were told he was under suicide watch, but he’s never been suicidal. Then we were told it was because he was considered a gang member, but that is false. He has tattoos but no gang tattoos. He is not, nor has he ever been, a gang member. They refused to let him into the general population, out of a cell by himself.
At one time he was in a cell and the water pipe busted. There was feces on the floor and water. He was kept in the flooded cell for 3 days. The cell he was in was a fire hazard, the outlets weren’t even covered, wall light switch wires were visible. We were worried he would be electrocuted.
He also had bugs in his food. That happened around the first month that he got incarcerated. There was a good size hole in the wall where bugs where coming in through that would bite him at night. There was also a scorpion.
He filed grievance complaints and spoke with workers but nothing got done. My mother has called and I have called and made numerous complaints to captains, lieutenants, guards and anyone at the jail, but did not receive any answers. The guards have told my brother to tell me and my mom to stop calling and complaining. But there are a couple of guards that have told my brother they do not agree with how he is being treated and he should get someone to investigate the jail.
We sent a complaint to the [Texas Commission on Jail Standards]. He told me he couldn’t help that I would have to call the sheriff. These people are in law enforcement and lack human compassion. I didn’t know what else to do. We were constantly worried for his safety.
I’m a very honest person. I’m the mother of three awesome kids. I work and prefer to be drama-free. I hate to hear my mother crying on the phone and constantly worrying about my brother in that jail. I just want him to be treated like a human being while he’s in jail. I want him to be safe and not to feel like his life is in danger. My brother is a loving person. I pray everyday that he is safe.
*Juan is a pseudonym used to protect Maria's brother's identity.