Dr. Candice Matthews, a prominent CEO, and Executive Director, stands with the families at a recent news conference organized by community activists in support of accountability and justice following an incident at a Harris County Jail.
To understand the background of the case and the families involved, several individuals passionately voiced their concerns during a riveting news conference orchestrated by dedicated community activists on Wednesday. The urgency of the situation was more than words could say, as the recent deaths of two Harris County Jail inmates, namely 40-year-old Eric Cano and 56-year-old Ray Rattler, were brought to light.
Both men had been hospitalized due to their preexisting conditions, making their untimely loss all the more tragic.
Demand for Justice
Janette Gutierrez addressed the audience during the news conference held on Wednesday, revealing the distressing news that she had learned about her father’s passing through a news report on June 6.
She was unable to speak with her father, Lawrence Gutierrez, for several weeks. Janette noted that the jail officials informed her that he had been released and had willingly signed out.
“If my father signed out, he would be home with his kids…all nine kids that he left behind, including eight grandchildren and one on the way that he will never get to meet.”
Others spoke out, including the family of Michael Sherman, who passed away while in custody on May 21. His brother, Jeremy Sherman, said that Michael suffered from mental health issues.
“He should have been restrained, and he wasn’t. The officer was following behind in an ambulance, from what I’ve been told, and he jumped out of the back of the ambulance,” Jeremy said.
The voices of these families are an indomitable force that refuses to be silenced. Each unique narrative serves to amplify the potency of their cause, lending further weight to their pursuit and demand for justice.
Another voice that took to an unwavering commitment to justice was Dr. Candice Matthews, who is determined to fight for those responsible to be held accountable by forming the Harris County Jail Accountability Project.
“We are not going to just continue [the] ‘rara’ out here in this sun every time someone dies. Action is going to be taken,” Matthews said.
According to records, in 2022, 27 inmates died in Harris County, and eight have died in custody this year. The Texas Commission on Jail Standards has reported that the Harris County Jail is currently struggling with staffing challenges, prolonged detention of inmates in holding cells, staff non-compliance with medical directives, and timely inmate evaluations.
According to the Texas jail project, it is imperative to recognize that inmates possess a constitutional entitlement to receive adequate medical care.
“If they were not dead at their house, why are they dead here,” Dr. Candice Matthews said.
This movement stands up against injustice, uniting others in awareness and support with a common goal of accountability for those who are victims. No matter the economic status or social standing, they have united and been noticed by many.