Mentally Ill Man Kept in Cage for Year, Forgotten by Court and Justice System

By Genesis Guzman and Stacie Guevara

HOUSTON, TX – A Texas man arrested for possession of meth was kept in a cage without a hearing for more than a year, according to a thread on Twitter posted Monday by the founder and executive director of the Civil Rights Corps, Alec Karakatsanis.

The mentally ill Texas man was arrested in Houston for possession of meth, but because he was unable to post bail he was kept in custody. The man was appointed a private contract lawyer but court records never showed any documentation that his lawyer had ever filed a request for his release.

The man’s case was ignored by his lawyer, the district attorney and the judge. He had been detained for six months with no advancement in his case.

Court records also indicated the court, officers, and prosecutors were well aware of the man’s mental condition but kept him detained in the cage despite the negative implication that could have on him.

Although he had been presumed not guilty of possession, after six months the man wrote a letter to the court in an attempt to be noticed.  In a desperate attempt to be released, he wanted to plead guilty and get probation.

However, no one paid any attention and no hearing was ever set so he was forced to remain detained in a cage for another six months.

He was finally able to get a hearing after an entire year of being detained, and was released due to the increase of coronavirus-related deaths in the jail.

In his Twitter thread, Karakatsanis said not only was this morally wrong, but it is common in Texas. He wrote, “…human caging is literally the only response that police, prosecutors, and judges know. Their budgets depend on it.”

Karakatsanis attached a 2019 article by Neena Satija to his thread, which details stories of several Texans being falsely accused for crimes and then being denied their right to an effective lawyer.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1963 that a person accused of a felony is guaranteed counsel even if the person can’t afford a lawyer.

Satija’s article said that the way counsel is provided is actually for states to decide, and in Texas, specific counties make the decision on how to appoint lawyers for those who can’t afford one.

The Texan man has been free for a year now, with no encounters with the law. His case was one of many that showed the neglect and unlawful injustices that occur in Texas jails.

About The Author

Genesis Guzman is a sophmore at UC Davis, majoring in English and Political Science. She is from Los Angeles, CA and hopes to attend law school in the future.

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