Kristan Nicole Smith was booked into Harris County Jail on April 27 for threatening a person with a gun, according to court records.
On May 20 — less than one month later — she was found unresponsive in her cell. Eight days later, the 38-year-old mother of four was declared dead at Ben Taub Hospital.
State records show the cause of Kristan’s death is still pending as of November 3 — more than five months after she was pronounced dead — prompting her mother, Deborah Smith, to question what happened.
“I don’t know if anybody attacked her. I don’t know if she didn’t get her medicine,” she said. “I don’t know what happened to my child.”
Deborah said her daughter was diabetic and, during a phone call from jail, told her she was being bullied by cellmates.
Despite not knowing the official cause of death, Deborah said she believes her daughter died because the Harris County Sheriff Office was ill-equipped to oversee the ever-growing jail population.
“If you’re operating a facility that you’re not even capable of overseeing, close it down,” she said. “If you cannot take care of these people, close it down.”
This year, Harris County Jail has seen the highest number of in-custody deaths and the highest inmate population in more than a decade, according to data from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office website. Kristan Nicole Smith is among at least 21 people who’ve died this year while the jail’s daily population continues to hover around 10,000 people — dangerously close to the facility’s maximum capacity.