She needs 13 pills every day. She says she got zero as an inmate at the Tarrant jail

·5 min read
Amanda McCoy

During her 10 day stay at the Tarrant County Jail, Stacey Gordon-Johnson says she wasn’t given her prescribed medications.

When she left the jail on July 18, she said, she was depressed and confused due to the lack of medications, some of which are for psychiatric conditions.

“I knew where I was but it was like I wasn’t really there, like I wasn’t living,” she told the Star-Telegram on Thursday. “That’s because I was coming down off of every one of my medicines.”

She brought 15 days worth of medication - 13 pills she takes each day - when she turned herself in on a theft charge on July 8.

Gordon-Johnson shared her story at the Texas Commission on Jail Standards meeting Thursday morning in Austin and asked the group to investigate what happens at the Tarrant County Jail. The policy-making body consists of nine members who are appointed by the governor. They include a judge from Longview and the Lubbock County sheriff.

Though they couldn’t confirm if an inspection had been initiated because of Gordon-Johnson’s story, a spokesperson said anyone may submit a complaint through the commission’s website. Those complaints might initiate an inspection.

A spokesperson for the Sheriff’’s Office said medications are administered by John Peter Smith Hospital employees at the jail, not detention officers.

Gordon-Johnson said she decided to speak to the commission after seeing coverage in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about three women who on Tuesday publicly asked for the Tarrant County Commissioners Court to investigate the jail.

One of the women, Becky Delaune, a member of Broadway Baptist Church’s Justice Committee, told the commissioners she knows someone who was in the Tarrant County Jail for four days and he also didn’t receive his medications. The man also told Delaune that he saw blood on the walls and floors of the holding room and urine and feces smeared on the wall.

The Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office responded to their comments Wednesday in a three-page statement sent to the newspaper.

“Every day Tarrant County Jail Detention Officers deal with people who have mental health issues who might do these things,” the emailed statement said about the blood and feces complaint. “As soon as it happens, we get it cleaned up and we move on. But to say those bodily fluids were on a jail cell wall for more than an hour is unlikely.”

During her address to the Jail Standards commission Thursday, Gordon-Johnson said she also saw blood and feces on the walls.

“Yes, maybe a mentally ill person did do it, but other inmates should not be made to sit with it and must go to the restroom on it,” she said. “No, the guards do not come and clean it like the Sheriffs Office reported.”

Gordon-Johnson said her cellmate wasn’t able to use a phone, and Delaune said her friend wasn’t given access to a usable phone. The Sheriff’s Office responded to Delaune’s statements saying that people are registered to use the phone during their intake.

At the jail, where inmates are housed individually in cells, a phone is wheeled over to them, the Sheriff’s Office said. They might have to wait to use a phone if they are being moved, because of business in the jail or if the phones are under repair, the news release said.

One comment in the Sheriff’s Office statement is what pushed Gordon-Johnson to drive to Austin for the Jail Standards meeting.

“As you know, the Tarrant County Commissioners Court is NOT a court of law,” the comment began. “The time allotted for public comments is an open mic and as long as someone who wants to speak signs up beforehand, they can get up to the podium and say whatever they want. They are not sworn under oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

Gordon-Johnson said that statement was offensive.

“I could not believe the Sheriff’s Office said that we who speak at the podium say whatever we want because we are not sworn under oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” she told the Jail Standards group. “If I had a Bible I would swear on it.”

Gordon-Johnson was not one of the women who spoke at the Commissioners Court on Tuesday.

Asked about Gordon-Johnson’s statements regarding her medication, Tarrant County sheriff’s spokesperson Robbie Hoy said that all medications are distributed by John Peter Smith Hospital staff who work at the jail 24/7.

“Detention officers do not have the authority to distribute medications as they are not medical providers,” he wrote in an email.

Hoy directed the newspaper’s questions to JPS. A representative from the hospital didn’t immediately return the newspaper’s request for comment.

Gordon-Johnson told the Jail Standards commission that she witnessed other women who also did not get their medicine, including a diabetic.

Not checking inmates properly

Gordon-Johnson also said that jailers do not check on inmates like they should.

“The guards tend not to pay attention,” she said. “There is a clicker that looks like a cell phone and they click it and they walk around and look in the windows. But they just go by. They didn’t look at any of us.”

The jail has been criticized in the past for not enforcing stricter policies regarding inmate checks. It lost its state certification in 2020 after jailers didn’t check on a man for at least an hour. He was found dead by suicide. That same year, 28-year-old Javonte Myers was left dead in his cell for six hours.

According to a lawsuit filed in May, ex-jailer Erik Gay said supervisors encouraged jailers to lie on their paperwork that checks were being conducted properly. During a surge of jail deaths in 2020, including a baby being born in secret in the jail and multiple deaths by suicide, Gay said, supervisors were only concerned about “making the computer look good.”

Gay, along with ex-jailer Darien Kirk, have been fired from the Sheriff’s Office and were charged with tampering with a government record after Sheriff Bill Waybourn requested they be investigated for lying about checking on Myers.