Delia Parker-Mims, a Denton County attorney, activist and candidate for County Commissioner Precinct 3, is calling for an investigation into the conditions in the Denton County Jail.
Parker-Mims is requesting immediate action due to revelations from recently released inmate Brenda Jesus about how she says jailers are not providing sanitary conditions and social-distancing measures that are known to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As a result, she claims inmates are contracting the dreaded disease at a high rate.
According to Sabrina Cancino, her mother Brenda Jesus who came to the Denton County Jail from Eagle’s Pass was in the women’s pod (an area with beds and bathroom) for a month.
“She was supposed to be put in quarantine when she arrived but wasn’t,” said Cancino.
Stated Cancino, “There are ladies in the jail who think they are going to die because they can’t get help. My mother said that when a young woman was placed in her pod, she told the jailers that she had COVID, but the jailers said she was just going through withdrawal. As a result, all of the 10 women in that pod got COVID, including my mother who was just released. Even when people tested negative, they kept them in there with those who tested positive.
“Luckily for my mother, her lawyer Sarah Morris obtained her release as my mother may have an underlying health issue and she didn’t want my mother to be harmed by COVID.”
Parker-Mims responded saying, “The Denton County Commissioners need to ensure that any individuals incarcerated in the Denton County Jail have conditions that prevent them from getting this horrible disease. Complaints from citizens who are in the jail must be taken seriously.”
The conditions are worrisome for more than just the inmates themselves.
“There’s a pregnant 20-year-old girl in there who is positive, and they couldn’t care less about her and her baby’s health,” Cancino said. “The ladies had no way of cleaning the area, so they made their own mop water out of bars of soap they all had. There is mold in the walls — it’s unsanitary. The COVID-negative ladies are still in the same pod as the COVID-positive ladies. This is freaking outrageous. They aren’t animals, they are humans!”
Angie Padilla knows a young man who is serving time in the Denton County Jail, and says COVID is also in the area where men are kept. Her friend told her that COVID is also present in the men’s area.
“If a man has COVID symptoms, the staff is charging them like $30 to visit the medical room and some don’t have that money,” Padilla said. “The trustees don’t want to work in the kitchen since someone who did tested positive. The men are worried since no one on the staff is telling them what is going on.”
“Apparently, the Denton County Jail, under the direction of Sheriff Murphree, is not ensuring COVID does not spread among the inmates,” said Parker-Mims. “Many haven’t been convicted of anything — they’re awaiting trial in jail because they don’t have money. So, the county is endangering the health of the impoverished. How we care for our most vulnerable speaks to our character. It is also an aspect of criminal justice reform and an example of the impact our county commissioners could make for a deteriorating system and a vulnerable population. Caring for the general welfare of our county includes all members — no exceptions.”
Parker-Mims said that on July 4, the Denton County Jail reported 11 new cases of COVID-19, while the county had a total of 95, meaning a huge 12 percent of the new cases were detected in a very small percentage of the county’s population.