KEY QUESTION: What is the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, and how does the Commission affect county government?
Texas Administrative Code
TITLE 37 – PUBLIC SAFETY AND CORRECTIONS
PART 9 – TEXAS COMMISSION ON JAIL STANDARDS
- The Texas Legislature created the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS or the Commission) in 1975 to implement a declared state policy that all county jail facilities conform to minimum standards of construction, maintenance, and operation.
- The Commission is comprised of nine members appointed to six-year overlapping terms by the governor with concurrence of the Senate. Two members are to be county sheriffs, one must be a County Judge, one a licensed medical practitioner, and one a County Commissioner; four members are citizens not holding public office. The governor designates the chairperson. An executive director, appointed by the Commission, serves as the administrative officer of the Commission.
- In 1983, the Texas Legislature expanded the jurisdiction of the Commission to include county and municipal jails operated under vendor contract.
- In 1991, the Texas Legislature added the requirement for count, payment, and transfer of inmates when precipitated by crowded conditions, and expanded the Commission’s role of consultation and technical assistance.
- In 1997, the Texas Legislature affirmed that counties, municipalities, and private vendors housing out-of-state inmates are within the Commission’s jurisdiction.
- It is the duty of the Commission to establish and communicate reasonable written rules and procedures establishing minimum standards, inspection procedures, enforcement policies, and technical assistance for:
- the construction, equipment, maintenance, and operation of jail facilities under its jurisdiction;
- the custody, care, and treatment of inmates; and
- programs of rehabilitation, education, and recreation for inmates confined in county and municipal jail facilities under its jurisdiction.
- The Commission used to conduct yearly surprise inspections. Pursuant to House Bill 1545 passed by the 87th Texas Legislature, the Commission now conducts risk-based inspections. The Commission encourages members of the Commissioners Court to attend all jail inspections.
- When the Commission determines minimum standards are not met in a jail, it informs the county sheriff and the Commissioners Court and sets a time period (usually a year) to have the situation corrected.
- When a county jail is found non-compliant and the problems are not corrected, the Commission has the authority to shut down the jail and require the transfer of prisoners to an acceptable detention facility.
“While we are regulatory, we also strive to provide technical assistance and serve as a resource for the counties to lean on because we know how difficult the operation of a county jail is,” shared TCJS Executive Director Brandon Wood.