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Travis County Inmate Found Dead, and State Addresses Inmate Suicides

KUT News
A female inmate was found dead of undetermined causes Monday morning in a shower at the Travis County Correctional Complex. That news coincided with State Senators' announcement of a new program to prevent jail suicides.

A female inmate in the Travis County Correctional Complex has died after being found unresponsive Monday in the shower. 

Investigators announced the death this morning. Autopsy results are pending, but investigators found no evidence of foul play.

No cause of death was immediately released for 40-year-old Athena Covarrubias. Roger Wade of the Travis County Sheriff’s Department says that officials aren’t ready to speak on what the cause of death might be, but suicide is still being considered among other possibilities. “There’s a list of possibilities, but detectives aren’t ready to pin it down to one thing until the [medical examiner]’s office makes a ruling,” Wade says.

The medical examiner’s office will release toxicology reports, and that process usually takes about eight to 10 weeks, Wade says.

Austin police arrested the woman nearly two weeks ago for three warrants out of Williamson County related to possession of a controlled substance, possession of marijuana and driving with an invalid license. Covarrubias also faced one new count of possession of a controlled substance.

Covarrubias’ death is the second inmate death the jail’s seen this year. All inmate deaths are reported to the state Attorney General’s office.

The news of Covarrubias' death came on the same day Texas Senate leaders announced it's doing more to prevent jail suicides. That effort came about in light of the Sandra Bland case in Waller County. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and State Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston) announced today the creation of an Interim Jail Safety Study Committee.

Whitmire, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, says inmate suicide is a growing problem.

“We’ve had 143 suicides since the state’s been keeping records. 31 this year, 29 in county facilities, two in municipal. We must declare today, everyone, that suicides are unacceptable – zero tolerance.”

Whitmire also says this would be a good time to evaluate the bond system in the state.

“Ms. Bland did not go before a [justice of the peace] until 1 p.m. on Saturday, where she was given a $5,000 bond, which means she needed $500 to get out. Five hundred dollars would’ve let that lady go about her way with the agreement to show up in court. Many jurisdictions would have given her a [personal recognizance] bond.”

Details about who would serve on the committee were not immediately available.

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