County needs a trauma-informed facility for female inmates

On Tuesday, June 15, the Travis County Commissioners Court will vote on whether or not to approve a $4.3 million contract for design services for the proposed Travis County Trauma Informed Women’s Facility Project. The project‘s design will be informed by the tremendous efforts of an advisory committee that issued  recommendations based on months of work interviewing female inmates and researching best practices.

The purpose of this project is not to increase incarceration capacity; rather it is to replace outdated and inefficient facilities and to construct a holistic facility that will house female inmates in one building, with onsite access to gender-specific medical services, trauma-informed care and counseling, mental health support system, job-training and other programs.

This project is the first of many outlined in the current Travis County Jail Facilities Master plan, which suggests that at least seven buildings in the jail complex are in poor condition and are being utilized longer than originally intended. I do not support the replacement of all these buildings. I do support the proposed women’s facility to address women’s needs from a trauma-informed perspective. If women were housed in a facility with only women and their medical needs were addressed, that facility would be safer for women and the officers who protect them.

Women wait to speak with a health care professional at the clinic in the Travis County Correctional Complex. [PHOTO COURTESY OF TRAVIS COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE]

Moreover, a facility that allows for the continuum of mental health and job training services can begin to address the core issues associated with the social determinants of health, which are critical to the rehabilitation of the detainee, helping to facilitate a more successful reentry into society after they have served their time.

The backgrounds of many of the detainees are rooted in poverty. The simple fact is that for people who live around the poverty line, the primary place for receiving mental health and medical services is jail. I am not happy about this, but as a Travis County Commissioner, I have a duty to provide for the primary needs of people who are in our custody. I will not fail to improve the existing services without a specific program to replace those critically needed services.

Read More: County needs a trauma-informed facility for female inmates