Dec 6, 2021 - News

Tarrant County jail had at least 21 in-custody deaths in 2020

An angry sheriff in a cowboy hat
Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

At least 21 people died in the custody of the Tarrant County jail in 2020, more than any other jail in North Texas, according to reporting by the Dallas Morning News.

  • It’s not clear what’s leading to the high number of in-custody deaths or whether anyone will be held accountable.

Why it matters: The Tarrant County jail has failed inspections from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards for the last two years.

  • Many of the inmates at the Tarrant County jail, including some who died, haven’t been convicted of anything and are awaiting trial.

By the numbers: In 2020, about 1 in 185 inmates in Tarrant County jail died in custody, according to statistics gathered by the DMN.

  • Dallas County had eight in-custody deaths during the same time, despite a much larger jail population.
  • Collin and Denton counties had one jail death each in the same year.

What they’re saying: “The members of the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office always work hard to improve and set high standards,” Sheriff Bill Waybourn’s chief of staff Jennifer Gabbert wrote in an email to the paper.

Context: In Collin County, Sheriff Jim Skinner fired seven people after a single controversial death in jail custody.

Worthy of your time: Check out the entire DMN editorial on the topic.

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