Collin County Politics: Compassion Over Cost

June 23, 2021

Commissioner’s Court: The commissioners didn’t hold a meeting last week. They didn’t explain why. Despite the absence of a meeting, a lot happened.

Joshua Murray, a citizen who speaks at every meeting, was charged with contempt on May 24th for “disrupting” the proceedings. Anyone watching the meeting will clearly see that Chris Hill set him up because Hill doesn’t like being called out as an idiot every week (he should be used to it by now). As a result of the trumped-up charge, Mr. Murray spent an entire night in jail. This is absolutely unacceptable. Not only was the contempt charge created by Hill to punish Mr. Murray for speaking up, but it also will have a chilling effect on others who want to utilize their constitutional right of addressing their elected officials. Y’all, this is some truly scary stuff. But it doesn’t stop there.

Collin County is facing a lawsuit from a woman who had a stillbirth while being held in jail. The woman, Lauren Kent, was facing a credit card fraud charge when she entered the minimum security jail in 2019. She was unable to pay the $125 needed for her bond and remained in custody for well over a month. Situations like this are why we need bond reform! Ms. Kent was denied access to a doctor despite being four months pregnant and experiencing pain and excessive bleeding. The staff treated her harshly, even going so far as to threaten to move her to the main jail for “crying wolf” about her medical situation. She ended up giving birth alone in her jail cell.

This is shocking. However, according to CNN, it’s par for the course for Wellpath, the company that provides medical care for the Collin County jail. Collin County Commissioners contracted with Wellpath (catchy name) in 2015 because they were looking for a new provider that would spend less money on medical care for people inside the jails. They especially wanted to minimize transport offsite. Thus, once again, the commissioners prioritized savings over the lives of people entrusted to their care. The savings they attempted to gain by hiring Wellpath isn’t going to work out for them though as thousands of dollars will surely be given to Ms. Kent in compensation for her suffering.

More taxpayer dollars will likely be given to the family of Marvin Scott III as well once their lawsuit against Collin County moves forward. Unfortunately, that will be cold comfort for the family since a grand jury just declined to indict the eight detention officers who were involved in Mr. Scott’s death inside the jail in early March. Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis self-righteously agreed with the grand jury’s recommendation of a working group to avoid such tragedies in the future. He then turned around and threatened protesters by saying, “…our laws must be followed and they will be enforced.” Wow! The amount of compassion and passion for justice in Collin County officials continues to astound.

These are the same people who want to ignore true community needs and instead spend our American Rescue Plan funds on increasing the size of the jail infirmary. Based on these two lawsuits alone, it’s clear that the medical care received by inmates is subpar. Thus, increasing the size of the area isn’t going to do anything but place more people in harm’s way.

If you somehow believe the commissioners have been chastened by these situations, let me assure you that they haven’t. Earlier this week, Hill sent out an email crowing about how the Collin County Jail passed its state inspection for the 34th year in a row. This seems like a low bar. Shouldn’t all jails at a minimum pass their annual state inspection? Reportedly, the inspector said the jail is run “very, very well.” Since the inspection covers inmate healthcare, you have to wonder what criteria they’re using and whether they interview current and former inmates.

There are things we can do to show our commissioners that they should be funding programs that help prevent people from going to jail instead of just increasing its size. We can show up to every meeting and utilize the public comment time about this issue. We can shower them with emails, postcards, Facebook posts, and tweets to let them know of our desires. We can demand to have personal meetings with the commissioners to dialogue with them about how they can be truly representative of all their constituents. Lest you believe such things don’t work, you only have to check out what happened in Travis County this month. A dedicated group of citizen activists deluged them with criticism until the commissioners had to take their complaints seriously. We need to do the same.

Plano City Council: Most of the meeting was spent making appointments to city council committees and naming council members as liaisons to boards and commissions (2 each). The city treasurer reported that Plano has significantly diversified its investments over time and is #1 in the state for interest earned per capita. During public comments, one citizen voiced concerns over plans for the new administrative office building at the North Texas Municipal Water District sewage treatment plant at Rowlett Creek that was recently approved by the Plano Planning and Zoning Commission. A number of residents are concerned about the plant, its operations, and its impact on surrounding neighborhoods.

Comments 1

  1. Every week, it’s something else at the County Commissioners Court. The situation with Mr. Murray is RIDICULOUS. Chris Hill should be ashamed of himself (although I doubt he is even capable of the self-reflection that would require).

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