By Burnet County Judge Donna Klaeger, Chairman, Texas Commission on Jail Standards
The Texas Commission on Jail Standards (Commission or TCJS) met in workshop and regular session on Feb. 3-4.
The first workshop to review Jail Standards was a tremendous success measured by the comments submitted by counties before and during the meeting. The Commission appreciates the communication assistance received from the Texas Association of Counties (TAC), Conference of Urban Counties (CUC), and the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas. Responses received prior to the meeting are posted on our website: http://www.tcjs.state.tx.us/. Comments received at the meeting will be posted within 30 days. (Note: We did learn during the meeting of a technology glitch, as there were reports that comments were sent but not received. We are working with the state’s technology department to rectify this problem.)
It is most important for everyone to understand that any changes in standards are NOT RETROACTIVE. They do not begin until the Commission reviews and recommends proceeding through the standard process of posting through the Texas Registry. Our goal is to review standards by sections, compile input, and continue to take comments throughout 2012. Issues with many comments will be addressed by committees, appointed by the chairman, which will help provide input at the next Commission meeting.
As in 2010 and 2011, it remains apparent that the intent of a standard is subject to a variation of interpretation. Changes in definitions, such as “jailer, correction officer, and sheriff’s trained staff,” are not applicable across all standards and must be reviewed for impact individually. And, the quote of the day, “May and Should are Good,” came from discussions of changes from “may to will” and “should to shall.”
The Commission presented a review of the history and enabling legislation which governs. The mission of providing assistance to counties by providing standards to address “safe and secure” facilities is the guiding principle of the Commission. Jim Allison, representing the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas, encouraged Commission members to further discuss the issue of “standards for jail facilities with 10 beds being the same as facilities with thousands.”
There was a great deal of input received at the workshop, which will require some additional research. Several standards will remain on the review list for May. Hot topics included, but were not limited to:
- time increments to observe inmates;
- sheriff’s trained staff vs. jailers or corrections officers;
- construction standards being too detailed; and
- authority of the TCJS outside of the perimeter of the jail.
It is important that TCJS does not infringe on the authority of sheriffs to use their discretion in assigning appropriate staff and direction of inmates outside the perimeter of the jail.
It is evident that open communication and open forums to express and receive concerns and to offer suggestions has been well received. The Sheriffs’ Association of Texas’ Jail Advisory Committee provided invaluable input. TAC and CUC represented counties well; however, please remember that your county issues will not be addressed if they are not presented for discussion and review.
The next workshop is scheduled for May 2 beginning at 2 p.m. For more information, visit our website at http://www.tcjs.state.tx.us/.
The TCJS conducted its regular session on Feb. 3. Variance requests were reviewed and approved. Commissioners requested updated reports to enable Commission members and counties to track risk management, jail populations, contract housing trends, etc. Remedial Order updates were received. The Commission instructed staff to review the process by which Remedial Orders are rescinded and to make recommended updates at the May meeting, to take place May 3 beginning at 9 a.m.
Issues discussed at the Jail Standards workshop were reviewed, and direction was given to staff and attorney to provide written review of comments received and to update the website. TCJS is short staffed at this time. As soon as the website is updated, an e-mail will be sent. Chairman Donna Klaeger will review comments and appoint committees to meet through conference calls to provide recommendations to the Commission at the May workshop. Committees could include appointments from the Commission, CUC, TAC, Sheriffs’ Association of Texas, County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas, Texas Jail Association, special interest organizations, legal representation, and professionals in the jail industry.
In other business, Executive Director Adan Munoz, noted his intention of submitting his retirement intent in May, to be effective at the end of August.
Both the workshop and TCJS meetings were “live streamed” and are available in the archives at:
- http://www.house.state.tx.us/fx/av/capitol-events/12020114TCJS.ram workshop
- http://www.house.state.tx.us/fx/av/capitol-events/12020209TCJS.ram quarterly meeting
Know that your TCJS commissioners are engaged and interested in learning about the effects of standards to your local government and operations. We look forward to working with you to continue to “assist local governments in providing safe, secure and suitable local jail facilities.” H