In­mates serve three meals a day at jail

Trusties also clean, do laun­dry for prison pop­u­la­tion.

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Naomi Martin Dal­las Morn­ing News

The men in hair­nets and gray striped jump­suits file into the Dal­las County Jail’s win­dow­less, in­dus­trial kitchen and get to work, hos­ing down dishes and scoop­ing neon green gelatin onto yel­low trays.

“It’s show­time,” said Sgt. David Peal, who watches to make sure no fights break out. Every day, this kitchen pumps out three meals for 5,300 in­mates. The de­tainees get around 3,000 un­ap­pe­tiz­ing calo­ries a day. The price to the tax­payer: about 97 cents a tray.

Dal­las County of­fi­cials say that’s lower than other lock­ups, where the cost can be more than $2 a meal, to meet fed­eral and state nu­tri­tion re­quire­ments.

It takes 900 in­mates to cook, clean and do laun­dry for the jail every day. They’re not paid, but they agree to do it for the slightly bet­ter food and a break from sit­ting in a cell.

One of Sher­iff Lupe Valdez’s big­gest con­cerns over the next year, how­ever, is what could hap­pen to this small army of un­paid la­bor. The county is start­ing to re­form its bail sys­tem to al­low non­vi­o­lent de­fen­dants deemed low-risk to await trial at home, in­stead of in the jail, where each costs the county $70 a day.

Prob­lem is, those low-level in­mates — called trusties — are the ones who do all the work.

“If this pro­gram goes into ef­fect, where all the mi­nor of­fenses get put out on bond or mon­i­tored, we’re not go­ing to have any trusties,” Valdez said re­cently.

She is look­ing at broad­en­ing the stan­dards for who’s al­lowed to be a trusty to in­clude those ac­cused of more se­ri­ous of­fenses. Or she might hire low-wage work­ers. That might bump the cost up, from 97 cents per meal to $1.20, she said, but it’ll still be “a great deal.”

For now, though, sher­iff ’s of­fi­cials are proud to show off their well-run ma­chine that man­ages to ac­com­mo­date 800 in­mates’ di­etary re­stric­tions, mostly as­so­ci­ated with ill­nesses. The jail has drawn of­fi­cials from At­lanta, Chicago and Seat­tle who want to learn its money-sav­ing ways, said Com­mis­sioner John Wiley Price.

The mas­ter­mind be­hind the jail’s food sys­tem is Diane Skip­worth.

Skip­worth, a reg­is­tered di­eti­tian, was a few years out of col­lege when she started at the sher­iff ’s depart­ment in 1994.

Some jails use food as a pun­ish­ment by mash­ing up left­overs and bak­ing it into a “nu­traloaf ” to force mis­be­hav­ing in­mates to change their ways.

But Skip­worth wants the in­mates to like the food.

“If they don’t eat it, there’s no nu­tri­tion in it,” she said. ony­mous, cer­tainly, some­one de­scribed as: ‘in­cred­i­bly in­tox­i­cated, no longer co­her­ent, at a point where she needed to be taken home away from the event be­cause she couldn’t form sen­tences,’ meets the def­i­ni­tion of in­ca­pac­i­tated.”

The law­suit ac­cuses Fenves of com­ing up with his own stan­dard for in­ca­pac­i­ta­tion and ig­nor­ing the univer­sity’s stan­dard, which de­fines it as “a state of be­ing that pre­vents an in­di­vid­ual from hav­ing the ca­pac­ity to give con­sent” and “could re­sult from the use of drugs or al­co­hol.”

The law­suit also says Fenves has a pos­si­ble con­flict of in­ter­est be­cause the fa­ther of the woman is a univer­sity donor who gave a sig­nif­i­cant sum within a month of her al­le­ga­tions. And, while the school’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion was on­go­ing, the law­suit says the univer­sity brought on the fa­ther to be an ad­viser at the school.

Brian Roark, the at­tor­ney who filed the suit, said in a state­ment to the Amer­i­can-States­man that if Fenves’ de­ci­sion stands, it would sub­ject “thou­sands of in­no­cent stu­dents to be­ing kicked out of school for en­gag­ing in be­hav­ior that is both le­gal and within the ac­cept­able norm for many, if not most, Amer­i­cans of col­lege age, whether they are stu­dents or not.”

It’s un­clear whether Fenves, who has been pres­i­dent since June 2015, has over­ruled a hear­ing ex­am­iner’s de­ci­sion in any other sex­ual as­sault cases.

UT spokesman J.B. Bird said the univer­sity gen­er­ally does not com­ment on pend­ing lit­i­ga­tion and, due to fed­eral pri­vacy laws, does not com­ment on stu­dent dis­ci­plinary mea­sures.

“Our poli­cies and pro­ce­dures in such cases are fol­lowed and ap­plied with care and dili­gence at all lev­els, in­clud­ing ap­peals to the pres­i­dent dur­ing which he makes de­ci­sions only based upon the record in the case,” Bird said.

“It is com­mon for stu­dents to ap­peal cases to the pres­i­dent and for him to ex­er­cise his role of re­spond­ing to their ap­peals,” Bird said.

A sur­vey of UT un­der­grad­u­ates re­leased in March found that 15 per­cent of women re­ported that they had been raped, through force, threat of force, in­ca­pac­i­ta­tion or other forms of co­er­cion such as lies and ver­bal pres­sure.

A White House task force con­cluded that 1 in 5 women is sex­u­ally as­saulted while in col­lege.

And Bay­lor Univer­sity is fac­ing a cas­cade of law­suits by women who claim they were at­tacked and their cases ig­nored or bun­gled by the univer­sity for years; the scan­dal led to the fir­ing of the foot­ball coach and the de­mo­tion and even­tual de­par­ture of the school’s pres­i­dent.

The boat party

The law­suit does not iden­tify ei­ther of the stu­dents, call­ing him John Doe and her Jane Roe.

The law­suit says the two stu­dents were near­ing the end of their sopho­more years on April 16, 2016, when the woman in­vited the man to her soror­ity’s boat party on Lake Austin. The woman told in­ves­ti­ga­tors she had five cups of san­gria — a drink that con­tains red wine, fruit and some­times brandy. She said she con­sumed no more al­co­hol the rest of the day and night.

The man said he also had been drink­ing. Af­ter the boat party ended, the two of them took a bus to her soror­ity’s for­mal and stayed there for about 90 min­utes be­fore re­turn­ing to her soror­ity’s house to check in and get some­thing to eat.

Then, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit, they walked to the man’s apart­ment where, the woman later told in­ves­ti­ga­tors, she ver­bally agreed to have sex.

It had been more than four hours since her last drink, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit.

By ask­ing the woman for con­sent, the law­suit says the man ad­hered to UT ad­vice to stu­dents, “Yes Means Yes.” The slo­gan is vis­i­ble on cam­pus fly­ers posted by the group Voices Against Vi­o­lence.

“A few days later, Jane de­cided that she had ac­tu­ally been too in­tox­i­cated to make a good de­ci­sion about whether or not she wanted to have sex with John that night,” the law­suit reads.

On Feb. 24, hear­ing of­fi­cer Con­rad Fjet­land, a chem­istry lec­turer at UT, ruled in fa­vor of the man, con­clud­ing that “the com­plainant made ra­tio­nal de­ci­sions through­out much of the evening prior to and af­ter the sex­ual in­ter­course.”

But in re­vers­ing the de­ci­sion, Fenves drew on com­ments the male stu­dent made about his ac­cuser “stum­bling” on the walk to his apart­ment.

“Un­der these con­di­tions, an ine­bri­ated party has no abil­ity to con­sent to sex,” Fenves wrote.

Seeks re­in­state­ment

Roark, the at­tor­ney who filed the suit, for­merly taught law at UT and has a his­tory of bat­tling the school on sex­ual as­sault mat­ters.

In Fe­bru­ary 2016, he filed a law­suit on be­half of two male stu­dents who faced dis­ci­plinary ac­tion for sex­ual as­sault.

A Travis County judge dis­missed the suit, let­ting the univer­sity hear­ing process play out. Roark said the hear­ing of­fi­cer in both cases ruled in fa­vor of his client.

In Oc­to­ber 2015, Roark suc­cess­fully de­fended Longhorns foot­ball player Ken­dall San­ders in a sex­ual as­sault case that went to trial in Travis County.

A fe­male stu­dent ac­cused San­ders and team­mate Mon­trel Me­an­der of rape af­ter a night out down­town in June 2014.

A jury ac­quit­ted San­ders; the dis­trict at­tor­ney then dropped Me­an­der’s charges. UT had pre­vi­ously ex­pelled both men and dis­missed them from the foot­ball team.

In the law­suit, Roark ac­cuses Fenves of bow­ing to pub­lic pres­sure, cit­ing an April 22 story in The Dal­las Morn­ing News in which UT Sys­tem Chan­cel­lor Bill McRaven says donors praised him for con­duct­ing the sur­vey that re­vealed 15 per­cent of fe­male un­der­grad­u­ates have been raped.

Too, the law­suit says, by so strongly speak­ing out against cam­pus sex­ual as­sault, Fenves “al­lows ad­vo­cacy to leak into what should be neu­tral de­ci­sion-mak­ing.”

The sus­pended stu­dent wants a jury to order his re­in­state­ment to UT and to award dam­ages, in­clud­ing past and fu­ture eco­nomic losses and loss of ed­u­ca­tional and ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“If par­ents have a child at­tend­ing the univer­sity, they should now be wor­ried about their child po­ten­tially be­ing branded as a rapist and forced out of school for ac­tions that con­sent­ing adults have been do­ing for thou­sands of years — drink­ing al­co­hol and hav­ing con­sen­sual sex,” Roark said.


In­mates serve pineap­ple and lime gelatin at the Lew Ster­rett Jus­tice Cen­ter in Dal­las. Low-level in­mates known as trusties pre­pare food for the Dal­las County adult and ju­ve­nile fa­cil­i­ties.

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