Activists demand Harris County Sheriff Garcia to resign over jail abuse claims

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Activists are demanding Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia's resignation over jail abuse claims first exposed by Eyewitness News' Ted Oberg last fall.

Quanell X made a statement Sunday afternoon and he is making Sheriff Garcia out to be the villain in all this, someone who punished others when he supposedly knew about an inmate's conditions all along.

An ABC-13 investigation by Ted Oberg revealed a mentally-ill Harris County jail inmate living in putrid conditions for an estimated two months in 2013.

Now, after months of internal investigation, we learned two detention sergeants and four supervisors had been fired in connection to the mistreatment of that inmate, Terry Goodwin.

Quanell X and Goodwin's parents made a statement in front of the jail Sunday saying the sheriff is covering up his own involvement.

They are calling for the resignation of Sheriff Garcia, who says he did not know about the deplorable cell conditions until Eyewitness News alerted him to it last year.

On top of the firings, 29 jail staff members have been suspended for about three days.

"If you didn't know, Adrian Garcia, you should have known. You are incompetent and I want the citizens of Harris County, I want everybody in Houston and surrounding areas to understand, if this were your son, would three days punishment be enough for his heinous treatment," said Goodwin's mother, Mashell Lambert.

"Adrian Garcia was not in the dark about what took place with this brother in this jail. Adrian Garcia was kept in the loop," said Quanell X.

Goodwin's case was brought to ABC-13's attention by a whistle blower who took photos of his cell, showing a toilet overflowing with excrement, Goodwin in a tattered uniforms and piles of trash layered with insects.

Quanell X and Goodwin's parents want the Department of Justice to investigate the jail, saying they know there are more cases just like this one.

Here is a statement issued on behalf of Sheriff Adrian Garcia:

    "The people of Harris County rightly expect and demand accountability and transparency in their government. My administration strives every day to give the public the highest level of transparency and accountability. I'm proud of that fact.

    "When I took over the county jail there were many issues and challenges and I have implemented many reforms that have contributed greatly to our public safety. We no longer just warehouse inmates, as had been the practice for many years prior, but now there is incredible time and effort to helping those once in our custody to live more positive and productive lives. Under my leadership inmate GED instruction, vocational education, spiritual ministry and counseling has been a priority since I took office - a priority that wasn't there before.

    "The punishments I have handed out as a result of this tragic Goodwin incident are the actions I have taken all along since I took office, holding all staff accountable to levels never seen before. This is what the community has expected and this is what I have delivered.

    "After I learned of this incident I took the initiative to notify the DOJ, the FBI, and the District Attorney's Office and gave each of them everything we knew about this incident at that time. No one had to demand such action.

    "At the request of the District Attorney's Office, I paused the internal investigation in order to ensure they had every opportunity to pursue criminal charges, as a result they indicted two employees, and this past Friday I dealt with all others involved.

    "When the DA's Office finished their work, we aggressively completed our internal investigation resulting in the punishments announced Friday.

    "I understand Ms. Lambert's anger over what happened to her son, and I have always shared her feelings. What happened to inmate Goodwin should never have happened, and my actions will help to keep it from happening again.

    "The multi-point reform plan that I implemented in the county jail is a result of that shared anger and my desire for justice for law abiding citizens, the accused, and the guilty.

    "However, I had already implemented the Crisis Intervention Response Team that has been able to keep over 1000 persons with mental illness from ever coming to jail.

    "These reforms also serve as a reminder that more needs to be done on the front end of what brings people to the county jail, the mentally ill in our community are underserved and the county jail regretfully continues to be the primary mental health care facility for those in need. Until this reality changes, it will continue to cause challenges for my staff.

    "The county jail will circulate about 120,000 inmates this year, I have nearly 5000 employees, and on any given day there are about 9000 inmates in my custody of which almost 30% are suffering from a serious mental illness. We have dramatically reduced the jail population in Harris County and improved the conditions of those in our custody and at the same time coming under budget four consecutive years. This isolated incident should not let this track record be forgotten."
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