November Meeting Recap
By Burnet County Judge Donna Klaeger, Texas Commission on Jail Standards
At its Nov. 4 meeting, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (Commission) reviewed several proposed changes to jail standards. The Commission approved the following proposals to be published in the Texas Register for comment.
v Several standards to clarify uniformity of the term “corrections officer” or “staff” to be replaced with “jailer” were approved.
v Standard 275.7 for supervision outside the security perimeter of a jail facility to include a peace office was unanimously approved.
v Health Services Plan 273.2 (5) modification which would require jails to provide procedures for the use of restraints while a pregnant inmate is in active labor in accordance with the 81st Legislature’s House Bill 3653 was approved.
The proposed changes to standards can be viewed on the TCJS website, http://www.tcjs.state.tx.us.
The Commission also reviewed four “petitioned” proposed additions to standards relating to the Health Services Plan concerning pregnant inmates, and open discussion was held with advocacy groups, county judges, sheriffs and staff.
Sheriffs from Limestone, Hill, Kerr, McLennan, Travis, and Harris counties commented on proposed Standard 275.2 referencing corrections officers’ training and licensing. Input received resulted in a proposed change to the wording to clarify that the standard only pertains to the supervisor assigned to the jail.
Finally, Commission members decided to call a special meeting to be conducted on Dec. 2, 2010, beginning at 9 a.m. at the John H. Reagan Building in Austin, 105 W. 15th Street, 1st Floor, Room 120. The agenda will be posted on the TCJS website and will include but not be limited to strategic planning and proposed changes to standards. The Commission is as effective as the information we are given, and we encourage your participation. If you are unable to attend the special meeting, please contact a commissioner or staff. Our contact information is available on the TCJS website,
Background on the Texas Commission on Jail Standards
Authority of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards: The Texas Legislature created the Commission on Jail Standards in 1975 to implement a declared state policy that all county jail facilities conform to minimum standards of construction, maintenance and operation. Through Government Code 55, the State of Texas has evinced a strong commitment to improving conditions in jails by granting TCJS the authority and responsibility to promulgate and enforce these standards. Related duties and rules are set forth in Chapters 351 and 361 of the Local Government Code and Minimum Jail Standards through Title 37 of the Texas Administrative Code.
Mission Statement: EMPOWER local government to provide safe, secure and suitable local jail facilities through proper rules and procedures while promoting innovative programs and ideas.
Mission: We serve the citizens of Texas with programs and services for the custody, care, treatment, and supervision of adult inmates in county jails. Although we retain the responsibility to regulate privately operated municipal facilities, most of our activities are oriented toward county functions. Our principal operations include on-site inspections of jails to verify compliance with standards; review of proposed construction and renovation plans to assess conformity to standards; provision of jail management technical assistance and training; administration of inmate population reports and audits; resolution of inmate grievances; and various other activities relating to policy development and enforcement.
Summary of Minimum Jail Standards: Currently, Texas Minimum Jail Standards encompass more than 600 standards that cover all facets of jail construction and operation for safe and secure facilities. Constitutional requirements, national research, statewide input from counties, and case law are among the resources considered when developing or revising the standards. Information is available on our website at http://www.tcjs.state.tx.us/.
Construction standards outline the minimum requirements for new and existing facilities of all types ranging from tents to maximum security facilities. Items addressed in construction standards include proper materials, facility function requirements, life safety requirements, space requirements and furnishings.
Operation standards address all components of inmate life from admission to release in accordance with state and federal constitutional requirements. Operation standards include classification requirements, health and mental health services, facility sanitation, supervision, personal hygiene, food service, inmate discipline and grievance procedures, exercise, education, work assignments, telephone, correspondence, commissary, visitation and religious practices.
It is the duty of the Commission to promulgate 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.
Jail Standards Review of Standards: This year the Texas Commission on Jail Standards embarked on a complete review of these standards, with the intent to focus on the Agency’s mission to EMPOWER local government to provide safe, secure and suitable local jail facilities and to consider fiscal notes in those decisions. As chairman, I updated the Commission on the communication partnerships with Texas Association of Counties to assist in “getting the word out” to county officials to encourage input and participation in this process. Updates, revisions, or additions to the standards are not a special project; rather, it’s the beginning of an ongoing practice. There is no deadline for sheriffs, county judges, or commissioners courts to discuss their issues. It’s important that the Commission learn firsthand from people who are working every day in the jail system so that informed decisions can be made.