Montgomery County Jail, Conroe, Texas
Stephen, a behavioral science researcher, was held pretrial from December 2011 to October 2014 with a $400,000 bond. He refused to take a plea deal. While incarcerated, he experienced poor medical care and inhumane conditions of confinement. He was found not guilty by a jury trial and released after almost three years. As a result of his incarceration, he and his wife divorced and he lost custody of their children, as well as his career.
I have always pointed out that jail conditions are substandard when compared to the minimums required by the National Institutes of Health. Did I mention that, as a scientist who works with animals, were I to propose keeping rodents in analogous conditions, I would get into serious trouble? There is a book by AAALAC, the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care, called The Care and Use of Laboratory Animals – you might find it interesting to compare with jail conditions.
The jail treated my medical problems ineptly, painfully, and at the lowest possible standard of care. I would not consider many, if any, of the medical personnel to be qualified for their position based on the poor technical skills that they exhibited. For example, their administrations of the subcutaneous TB tests that they use were almost universally incorrectly carried out, which is likely to result in false negative tests. Out of three I have been given here, only one was done correctly. The scary thing for me is: how many undetected TB cases are in jail? They house people who have infectious diseases with people who do not. These diseases are, that I know about, MRSA and Hepatitis C. It is also likely that other diseases are not isolated either.
The clinic here is nearly useless. The corporation which is contracted to provide the “services” feels that it has the right to substitute medications prescribed to inmates for alternative medicines. I am not talking about substituting generics for brand names. I am talking about changing from one drug to an entirely different drug.
I got a hernia here because I lifted too much weight. I noticed it had popped out a great deal - this overwhelmed me and I actually passed out. They took me to the clinic. They told me to push it back in myself and that they would give me some pain medication and sent me back to my cell. A month later, unexpectedly the hernia popped back out and completely blocked my G.I. tract. Beginning Sunday night, I began to vomit everything up. Tuesday they finally took me to the clinic, where the physician tried to repack my hernia (very, very painful!) to no avail. After awhile they decided to send me to the hospital. They asked me how I was going to pay for this and fortunately I had photocopies of my wife’s group health insurance coverage ID card for me. They did get to me to the hospital where they scheduled me for surgery immediately. I stayed in the hospital until the next Sunday, and then I was returned to the jail. My physician at the hospital wanted to continue the heavy-duty pain medications I was on, but the jail will not allow such things, so I was prescribed ibuprofen and acetaminophen in high doses. I received my first dose of these lighter painkillers in jail after having gone with NO pain medication for three days — while healing from surgery.
I did not, personally, have any mental health issues, but I witnessed very inept administration of psychotropic drugs at widely varying times of day, which is in direct violation of the prescription requirements of these types of medications. In the months I have been waiting for trial, I have been in the same cell with a large number of seriously mentally ill inmates. These include violent schizophrenia, seriously bipolar individuals, one with fragile x syndrome, many with serious learning disabilities, and a very large number of people with PTSD (virtually every person that was in Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities previously had PTSD.)
They house inmates who have never been convicted with people who have been convicted of multiple felonies. Many have very explosive and very violent tendencies. They are housing a wide range of ages and sizes of men, which can lead to other issues including violence. I really think that this is one of the bigger problems here overall - the indiscriminate intermixing as I have described. I witnessed many physical assaults by guards on inmates while I was there. It is not an uncommon practice by the jail staff to physically attack inmates — even for verbal misbehavior.
Overall the food is almost universally vile and this is compounded by its inadequate portions. I am quite certain that if a health inspector could randomly inspect this place that it would fail on many levels. The food is almost always cold when served in the back of A-quad. They do have ‘hot carts’ but they do not use them in our part of the jail. We seem to be at the end of the line. For example, today lunch was bologna sandwiches, but sans bread. The next cell to us did however get bread. Often times they run out of beverages before getting to the back of A-quad as well. I broke four molars on rocks in beans, which usually taste like dirt and do not seem to usually be washed before preparation. Once I had a burr stuck into the roof of my mouth from the beans. The commissary prices are over the top. Some examples are: 3 oz off-brand freeze dried instant coffee - $4.55; 1 pint Bluebell icecream - $3.60; ramen noodles - $.85/pack. Personally, I have spent about $7,000 on commissary here. I do not believe that I would be able to survive without commissary, and I pity those who must do so.
The cells are filthy because the cleaning materials are generally inadequate. The temperature is usually very cold, generally all of the inmates need to wear thermal underwear and are still too cold. The showers are simply disgusting, moldy, nasty cubicles.
I was pressured [to plead guilty] but because I was innocent I did not submit to the pressure that they applied to me through my early attorneys.
My wife and I are getting divorced due to the stress placed on her by all of the events surrounding this personal disaster. It is a sad situation, but the relationship is clearly beyond the point of no return. I suspect that this is probably not a completely unfamiliar story to you, as marital destruction seems to be an all too common side effect of incarceration.
I lost my job at Johns Hopkins Medical School and am now seeking employment. At my age it becomes more difficult to find decent employment.
As to my mindset, well, jail has changed my outlook about a lot of things. I no longer believe in the myth of “innocent until proven guilty” for starters. I was, as an empirical scientist performing cutting edge research, a devout atheist. In my time here I have found that God is real, and have become a follower of Christ. I do not think that I could have survived here this long without God’s help.
The glorious reality is that I know God has a plan for the remainder of my life, and after all that I have been through, I have no choice but to completely trust that He has my best interests in mind, because He loves each one of us human beings far more that we can deserve or understand. I always thought, before, that such ideas were foolish.