Family denied access to inmate's body after his death behind Harris Co. Jail walls, mom says

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Thursday, July 6, 2023
Inmate who died should never had been jailed in first place, mom says
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Ramon Thomas' mother is speaking to ABC13 after her son died behind bars at the Harris County Jail.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- An inmate died after he was found unresponsive inside his cell at the Harris County Jail on July 1, according to the sheriff's office.

The Harris County Sheriff's Office said in a news release that 30-year-old Ramon Thomas died after suffering "an apparent medical emergency."

Deputies said Thomas was found with a low pulse inside his cell. Harris Health medical staff tried lifesaving measures before he was taken to a nearby clinic, according to the sheriff's office.

At about 10:26 p.m., a Houston Fire Department ambulance took Thomas to Ben Taub Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 10:44 p.m.

"It's wicked. It's horrible. I really don't want another mother to have to go through this. Something has to be done and done now," Thomas' mother, Dianne Bailey-Rijsenburg, said.

She said relatives last spoke with him the morning of his death.

They said they have been denied access to his body since his death. Bailey-Rijsenburg said her son was bipolar and schizophrenic and should have been in a special mental health unit.

In fact, she believes he should never have been sent to jail in the first place in his mental condition.

HCSO said Thomas had no obvious physical injuries when he was found unresponsive. Thomas was booked into the correction facility on two charges of criminal trespassing and terroristic threat on April 19.

"We are all human. We are on this earth for each other. That was a wicked act. I want my son," Bailey-Rijsenburg said. "My son means so much. My children are all I have."

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The Texas Rangers are investigating the death in accordance with state law that requires all jail deaths to be investigated by an outside law enforcement agency. Thomas' death has been reported to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.

"The Sheriff's Office Internal Affairs Division is also investigating to determine whether all applicable policies and procedures were followed, which is standard following the death of a person in jail," HCSO said in part of a news release.

Thomas' cause of death will be determined by an autopsy conducted by the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences.

The incident marks the ninth reported death at the Harris County Jail this year, according to the sheriff's office. Eyewitness News covered back-to-back deaths in January, an apparent suicide in March, and another medical emergency-related death in May.

In February, the jail's improved cleanliness after the four deaths in January was not enough to drop them from the state inspectors' non-compliance list.

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WATCH: Sheriff Ed Gonzalez sits down with 13 investigates to answer concerns of Harris Co. jail conditions