Attorney Ben Crump calls on DOJ to investigate Harris Co. Jail amid rising number of inmate deaths

Tuesday, February 14, 2023
Attorney Ben Crump calls on DOJ to investigate Harris Co. Jail amid rising number of inmate deaths
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump was in downtown Houston at a news conference on Monday, representing the families of people who have died while at the Harris County jail.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Lawyers and family members of Harris County Jail inmates who died while in custody are calling on the Department of Justice to investigate the significant trend in deaths at the jail.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump was in downtown Houston leading a news conference on Monday representing those families.

"If that were your loved one, you'd say, 'shut this down until you can guarantee us that my loved one isn't going to die at the hands of the people who are supposed to protect them.' Politicians can't keep hiding behind words like it's systemic, that we have an investigation going on," Crump said.

RELATED: Judge Hidalgo announces program expansion at Harris Co. Jail after 4 inmates have died this year

Twenty-seven inmates died in custody at the Harris County Jail in 2022. That's a record high number. County leaders don't want to repeat that this year after reports of four inmate

Families of Jacoby Pillow and Kevin Smith Jr., who both died while at the jail last month, were among a growing number of grieving loved ones who want answers to what is happening at the Harris County Jail.

Pillow's family says he was in the process of being released on a $100 bond for a misdemeanor trespassing charge when he was involved in an altercation with jail personnel.

Pillow received new charges and was detained overnight instead of being released. The following morning on Jan. 3, 2023, he was reportedly found dead.

SEE ALSO: Families of Harris County inmates in Austin to advocate for loved ones who died in jail

Families of inmates who died in the Harris County Jail are in Austin to advocate before the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.

Smith's family said he was there for a parole violation when he was found unresponsive and was determined to be dead in January.

Weeks later, Smith's uncle also died while in custody at the jail, bringing the total number of 2023 deaths so far to four.

RELATED: 13 Investigates: 4 inmate deaths counted at Harris County jail in the month of January

A day after 13 Investigates uncovered a third inmate death behind jail walls, there's word of a fourth, reported on the final day of the month.

The Harris County Sheriff's Office announced Monday that the FBI will review the deaths of Jaquaree Simmons in February 2021 and Jacoby Pillow last month.

In Simmons' case, 11 jail employees have been fired, six suspended, and one charged with manslaughter.

Pillow's cause of death is still pending with the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences. The Houston Police Department is also investigating his death, HCSO said.