By Burnet County Judge Donna Klaeger • Chairman, Texas Commission on Jail Standards
The Texas Commission on Jail Standards (Commission) conducted its quarterly workshop and Commission meeting on May 2 in Austin. The Commission continued its process of updating changes to Standards and proposed 17 new changes to Standards for comment, including deleting a Standard that was unenforceable by the Commission.
The proposed changes included revisions to the “Privacy Shields” Standards to accommodate direct supervision facilities. In addition, changes to Standards were proposed to give sheriffs flexibility in operating their facility by allowing sheriff-designated staff to conduct certain tasks. The Commission also voted to delete the Standard that referenced a jailer’s salary parity, which is unenforceable by the Commission. For a complete review of proposed changes to Standards, please visit the Commission website at www.tcjs.state.tx.us.
Executive Director Brandon Wood provided an update on the Commission’s suicide screening training module. The Commission sent the training module to select sheriffs and jail administrators, and, based on the feedback, the Commission is revising the module to incorporate the stakeholders’ suggestions.
Assistant Director Shannon Herklotz advised the Commission on the Small Jail Issues Outreach Program and the New Sheriffs Training Initiative. Mr. Herklotz stated that a conference call was conducted with small-jail sheriffs, and issues faced by these sheriffs were discussed. This first call was encouraging because the discussion and topics were put forward by county officials and not Commission staff, and it is hoped that additional counties will participate in the next call, which will be scheduled in the near future.
An update on proposed legislation that could impact county jail operations was provided by Executive Director Wood. Very few bills are expected to pass, but there still remains the possibility that amendments can be added to pieces of legislation that are expected to pass; agency staff will continue to monitor the progress of all that were initially identified.
During the New Business segment of the meeting, three counties were discussed. Both Wharton and Smith counties were listed in order to review their remedial order. With the change in administrative rules, the Commission now reviews a county’s remedial order if they have passed their most recent annual inspection, a change from previous practice where it was the county’s responsibility to request a review. Although the remedial order for Wharton County was rescinded, Smith County’s remedial order was left in place at the request of the county in order to ensure continued compliance with Minimum Jail Standards. The Commission then granted El Paso County’s request that sprinkler heads not be required at inmate housing areas in the new addition that is currently being designed.
In other business, TCJS reported the following:
- 233 jails in compliance
- 11 jails in non-compliance
Status and Composition of Jail Population
On March 1 the total population in Texas county jails decreased by 627 from the previous month. Statewide capacity stayed the same as last month. County jails are now collectively operating at 67 percent of capacity. As of March 1, there were no jails at 100 percent or more of capacity.
Also as of March 1, county jails were housing:
- 38 TDCJ half-way house inmates
- 63 out-of-state inmates from New Mexico and Arkansas in four facilities
- 7,757 total contract inmates (county, federal, TDCJ, and out-of-state)