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Texas: $400,000 Settlement Award to Mentally Ill Jail Prisoner

On June 2, 2015, the Harris County Commissioners Court awarded $400,000 to Terry Goodwin, a mentally ill prisoner, to settle a civil lawsuit stemming from his extreme neglect while housed at the Harris County Jail in Houston.

“I have never seen anything like this in my 41 years as a lawyer,” attorney Jim Harrington stated shortly before the settlement was announced. “This is just unbelievable.”

Harrington, executive director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, was reacting to revelations that medical staff at the Harris County Jail were aware of the filthy conditions of the cell that Goodwin was left in for weeks. Goodwin’s case was brought to light by whistleblowers who contacted the news media with photos of Goodwin’s cell, which was filled with trash, feces and swarms of insects.

When Dr. Michael Seale, director of health services at the jail, was questioned following a press conference, he admitted that his medical staff knew about the squalor in Goodwin’s cell. “They documented it in the medical records,” he said. “They followed policy and procedure.” No medical staff were disciplined, and Seale refused to describe the incident as a communications breakdown.

Six jailers were fired and 29 others suspended in connection with Goodwin’s conditions of confinement. On April 14, 2015, two guards, Sergeants Ricky D. Pickens-Wilson and John Figaroa, appeared in court to face felony charges of tampering with a government document. Prosecutors accused them of signing off on cell checks that indicated Goodwin was in good condition when, in fact, he was languishing in filth. Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia retired in the wake of the scandal but denied having knowledge of the squalid conditions in Goodwin’s cell.

Goodwin remains incarcerated, serving a three-year sentence for assaulting a guard during his incarceration in Harris County. He was initially jailed on a marijuana charge while on probation.

Sources:,, Houston Chronicle

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