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Town hall in Arlington to bring Tarrant County sheriff, activists to discuss jail conditions, deaths

Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn and Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller ride horses and greet guests down East Exchange Avenue on Jan. 3 at the Fort Worth Stockyards.
Cristian ArguetaSoto
Fort Worth Report
Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn, front left, and Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller ride horses and greet guests down East Exchange Avenue last year at the Fort Worth Stockyards.

Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn is set to answer questions about jail conditions and deaths at a public forum in Arlington Thursday night, as he runs for his third term in office.

At least 60 people have died in Tarrant County custody since Waybourn took office in 2017, including one person who died at a private prison near Lubbock, which Tarrant County pays to use.

The sheriff’s main job is operating county jails. These deaths and other incidents, like the beating of an incarcerated man and the death of a baby born unattended in a cell, have sparked multiple lawsuits, which have cost the county more than $1 million in settlements. Two jailers accused of falsifying checks on an incarcerated man who later died face criminal prosecution.

Democratic County Commissioner Alisa Simmons organized the panel, which will meet Thursday night from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Tarrant County Sub-Courthouse, 700 E. Abram St. in Arlington. She wants to address the rising jail population, mental illness in the jail, and the deaths.

“We're going to give people an opportunity to hear about those things, [and] ask questions about those areas of the county jail that concern them,” Simmons said.

Other participants in the panel will include, according to Simmons’ office:

  • J. Greg Shugart, Tarrant County Criminal Courts Administrator 
  • Tamla Ray, Tarrant County magistrate judge 
  • Deborah Nekhom, Tarrant County Criminal Court No. 4 judge 
  • Krish Gundu, head of the Texas Jail Project, a statewide advocacy organization 
  • Pamela Young, organizer with United Fort Worth, a local activist group 
  • Katherine Godby, chairwoman of the Justice Network, a local activist group 

Members of the Justice Network are some of the most frequent commenters at Tarrant County Commissioners Court meetings, often bringing concerns about the jail.

Waybourn is a Republican, running unopposed in his party’s primary. The Democrats running to replace him are Patrick Moses and Indya Murray. They’ll face off in the primaries on March 5, before Tarrant County voters make their final pick for sheriff in the general election on Nov. 5.

Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at You can follow Miranda on X @MirandaRSuarez.

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Miranda Suarez is KERA’s Tarrant County accountability reporter. Before coming to North Texas, she was the Lee Ester News Fellow at Wisconsin Public Radio, where she covered statewide news from the capital city of Madison. Miranda is originally from Massachusetts and started her public radio career at WBUR in Boston.