Key Question: What is the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, and how does the Commission affect County Government?
Reference Point: 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 (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;
- programs of rehabilitation, education, and recreation for inmates confined in county and municipal jail facilities under its jurisdiction.
- The Commission conducts yearly surprise inspections of county jails to determine compliance with standards. The Commission encourages members of the Commissioners Court to attend 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. The sheriff and Commissioners Court can apply to the Commission for a variance in the standards.
- When county jails are found noncompliant and the problems are not corrected, the Commission has the authority to shut down a jail and require the transfer of prisoners to an acceptable detention facility.