Everyone's a Critic: ACLU vs. Harris County vs. DOJ vs. HCJ

The ACLU of Texas is criticizing Harris County's criticism of the U.S. Department of Justice's criticism of Harris County Jail. Hair Balls isn't sure who to criticize yet.

In a press release, the state chapter's legal director calls County Attorney Vince Ryan's response to the DOJ's June report: "defensive and backwards-looking." Plus, the chapter's policy analyst said "the resources expended in challenging DOJ's findings would have been better spent addressing chronic, unresolved problems at HCJ such as overcrowding and insufficient medical care."

Ryan unleased a 454-page behemoth in response to the DOJ's wimpy 24-page report, openly mocking the feds by calling their findings "findings," the quotation marks apparently indicating his belief that the findings were hypothetical. And we're guessing Ryan was hoping the DOJ wouldn't even bother to read the tome, assuming that anyone who went through that much trouble must have a valid argument.  And as far as we can tell, the DOJ is still wading its way through the lengthy bitch-slap, most likely making some poor intern read a chapter a night. But the ACLU was on it like a hawk. A pinko prisoner-loving hawk.

The whole thing started with a series of Chron stories about what seemed to be an unusually high number of inmates dropping like flies -- 111 in six years. The DOJ swooped in and found that the jail's poor medical care was perhaps contributing to the problem. Then, ten days after yet another inmate went to the big penitentiary in the sky, Ryan issued his report, which states that 111 ain't all that bad -- it's only 15.857 deaths a year, or 0.0132 percent of the total number of inmates received per year.

Ryan's report also stated that the jail system has improved in the 12 months since this actual investigation.

In its own report, the DOJ threatened legal action if its findings (or "findings") weren't addressed within 49 days, which has passed. So we're eagerly awaiting the DOJ's response to Ryan's response to the DOJ, not to mention the ACLU's response to that response. (We've got a call in to the ACLU to get its prediction on who'd win the lawsuit, or if it'd just maybe be better to put county and federal attorneys in the general population and have 'em duke it out).

In the meantime, even though Ryan may think it's approaching Four Seasons-like conditions, Hair Balls is going to do our best to stay out of jail.

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