Former Harris Co. inmate claims she miscarried after jailer's assault, other inmates gang-raped her

Rosie Nguyen Image
Wednesday, February 28, 2024
Former Harris Co. inmate claims assaults in jail led to miscarriage
Mikayla Savage filed a federal lawsuit against Harris County, nearly two years after she said she was assaulted behind bars and forced to miscarry.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Harris County Jail is under fire again after a woman filed a lawsuit claiming the alleged physical and sexual assault she suffered while incarcerated caused her to have a miscarriage. The claim announced on Tuesday came as new information presented to county officials shows that the jail remains non-compliant with state standards.

For Mikayla Savage, the three months that she spent in the Harris County Jail in summer 2022 will forever be one of the darkest times of her life. According to the federal lawsuit she filed against Harris County on Tuesday, Savage alleged she was assaulted at least six times while pregnant behind bars.

Her attorney, Miriam Nemeth from Rights Behind Bars, said the charges she faced of "violating a protective order" and "aggravated assault" were eventually dropped, but it came at a price that caused her to suffer extreme trauma.

"She was assaulted by a guard to the point of miscarrying her pregnancy. She was forced to endure an abortion alone. She was gang-raped with a foreign object and tied up by several prisoners. Without any assistance from the guards there, she had chemicals and urine thrown on her," Nemeth said. "What she went through in the jail was so heinous that she attempted suicide multiple times in a three-month period."

In a statement to ABC13, a Harris County Sheriff's Office spokesperson wrote in part:

"Investigators conducted multiple interviews, analyzed security video footage, reviewed medical records, conducted DNA testing, and gathered other evidence. The investigation found insufficient evidence to verify the allegations."

READ MORE: HCSO investigating jail brawl involving inmate and multiple guards: 'It's excessive force'

Savage's case aside, issues regarding jail conditions are still plaguing Harris County. On Tuesday, Harris County commissioners learned the jail is "near compliance" but still missed the mark under state review.

"It is unacceptable from a justice perspective, and it's unacceptable from a fiscal standpoint and return on investment for the taxpayers' dollars that we're stewards of," Precinct 4 Commissioner Lesley Briones said.

The latest data presented to commissioners indicated that there are still approximately 190 vacant positions at the Harris County Jail. The vacancy rate averaged 11% in 2023, starting at 9% initially and peaking at 14% in the fall.

As of Feb. 19, 9,211 people were in custody, with 15% outsourced to other facilities. Out of that number, 233 have a length of stay of 1,000 days or higher, 59 are greater than 1,500 days, and the longest length of stay is 3,219 days.

Nemeth and other jail reform advocates spoke out during public comment, calling the system "broken."

"We're here to ask them to explore the options of reducing the jail population instead of all these other options that have not worked out so far," Krish Gundu of the Texas Jail Project said.

"It chews people up, it spits them out, and it puts them in a place where they can't ever rehabilitate. They can't get jobs, they can't get housing, they can't have relationships with their families like they had before," Nemeth said.

SEE ALSO: Man dies after having seizure in Harris County Jail processing center, officials say

The jail was first cited back in 2022 for being in violation of not providing timely medical care and keeping people in holding cells past the legal time limit. Harris Health reported that after helping HCSO redesign the intake process, everyone who was detained in November and December 2023 was provided a medical assessment and booked within 48 hours.

Both county jail locations are expected to have the infrastructure and equipment by the end of May to allow for radio communication. Currently, detention officers and other staff do not have radios for communicating in the jail.

County commissioners asked the team presenting data from HCSO and the Office of County Administration (OCA) for a more specific timeline with dates on action plans and benchmarks. More updates are expected to be provided to commissioners in future meetings.

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