By Burnet County Judge
The Texas Commission on Jail Standards (Commission) conducted its quarterly Commission meeting on Nov. 7 in Austin.
The Commission continued its process of updating changes to Standards, adopting 16 new changes and delaying one.
The nine-member Commission voted to adopt the changes that included revisions to the “Audible Communication” Standards that will allow licensed peace officers, bailiffs, and staff designated by the sheriff, as well as licensed jailers, to monitor two-way intercoms. A proposed change to the Standard that would give sheriffs the discretion to provide bedding and linens in holding cells was tabled after several individuals protested the change. Commission Chairman Donna Klaeger, Burnet County Judge, appointed a workgroup to study the Standard and to bring a recommendation to the full Commission. For a complete review of proposed changes to Standards, please visit the Commission website at www.tcjs.state.tx.us.
Assistant TCJS Director Shannon Herklotz advised Commission members that Commission staff conduct another conference call with sheriffs and jail administrators of facilities with fewer than 24 beds. Although only two counties called in for the first conference call, Herklotz said that the topics discussed, including recreation, mental health, and staff turnover, seemed to generate many ideas. Herklotz advised that the program will continue, and it is hoped that additional counties will participate in the next call.
During the New Business segment of the meeting, TCJS Executive Director Brandon Wood indicated that two counties had come across two minimum Jail Standards that do not appear to reflect or are in conflict with the Code of Criminal Procedure. Wood asked that the Commission appoint a workgroup to study the two Standards.
The first issue is with Code of Criminal Procedure 43.101 and the type of inmate who may volunteer for work assignments. CCP 43.101 does not allow inmates with a violent history or charges to volunteer for work assignments, and Minimum Jail Standard 289.2 does not mention that fact.
The second issue is with Code of Criminal Procedure 42.032 and the loss of good conduct credit. Currently, jail officials may only sanction an inmate with the loss of good time credit for a major infraction, but CCP 42.032 states that the loss of good conduct credit may be applied to a violation of any rule known to the defendant. In both issues, Klaeger assigned Commission members and requested stakeholders from the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas, Conference of Urban Counties, Texas Jail Association, and Texas Association of Counties to serve on the workgroups to study the two Standards.
Also under New Business, the Commission outlined its meeting schedule for 2014 as Feb. 6, May 1, Aug. 7, and Nov. 6.
The meeting concluded with the following report of the latest jail-related figures:
Some 236 jails are in compliance.
Nine jails are in non-compliance.
The total population in Texas county jails increased by 1,342 from the previous month.
Statewide capacity increased by 566 beds because LaSalle, a private facility, came back under the Commission’s purview.
County jails are collectively operating at 73.10 percent of capacity.
Four jails are at 100 percent or more of capacity.
County jails are housing:
51 TDCJ halfway house inmates.
405 out-of-state inmates from New Mexico and Arkansas in five facilities.
The total number of contract inmates (county, federal, TDCJ and out-of-state) is 9,324.