By Burnet County Judge Donna Klaeger, Chairman
The Texas Commission on Jail Standards (Commission) voted to adopt a change to Standard and was briefed on preparations for the upcoming legislative session at the Commission’s quarterly meeting on May 1 in Austin.
The adopted Standard adds the loss of good time credit as a sanction for a minor infraction. Current rules only allow the forfeiture of good conduct credit for a major violation. The proposed change to the Standard was prompted after a county official believed that the Standard was not aligned with state statute. The adopted Standard became effective at the end of May.
In the only other old business item, Assistant Director Shannon Herklotz advised the Commission of the launching of the web-based Objective Classification training course on May 1. The course was a result of a new partnership between the Commission and the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) to create online training for Texas jailers. The classification course is required before jailers can classify inmates. Herklotz presented the developer of the course, Stephanie Pasquale, with a certificate of appreciation for her work on the project.
In new business, the Commission was briefed on documents required by the agency to prepare for the upcoming budget cycle. Agency staff is in the beginning stages of drafting the five-year strategic plan, which is required to be updated every two years. The Commission was provided a copy of the current strategic plan and asked for commentary; the strategic plan deadline is June 23, 2014.
As part of the strategic plan, state agencies are required to perform a customer service survey. Research Specialist Diana Spiller provided a draft copy of a customer service report and reported that the results of the survey were very favorable; however, staff had identified areas of improvement, specifically in areas of the agency communicating its various services to stakeholders, such as training and facility and staffing analysis services.
In other new business, Kyle Mitchell, deputy executive director of the Texas Veterans Commission (TVC), gave a presentation on the TVC and the recent work of the Texas Coordinating Council on Veterans Services (TCCVS), on which TCJS serves as a member. Mitchell advised the TCCVS was mandated by legislation and works to coordinate activities of numerous state agencies across several different areas to assist veterans and their families. Mitchell indicated that the TCJS is well-positioned to help promote services to justice-involved veterans because of its unique role of working with county officials. For example, counties can help veterans by using information from the intake screening form that asks about prior military service and connect veterans to services, such as the Veterans Administration’s Veterans Justice Outreach Specialists or local Veterans Services Officers.
Also in new business, the Commission heard an update from Harris County on their efforts to reduce their inmate population and reliance on variance beds. Sheriff Adrian Garcia advised that Sam Houston State University was conducting a study on the Harris County inmate population and hopes to have incarceration projections by the next Commission meeting.
The Commission was introduced to TCJS’ newest staff member Rosalee Bailey, a former jail administrator from Karnes County, who was hired as a program specialist in March. Also, Klaeger presented a certificate of appreciation to TCJS’ long-time legal counsel, Assistant Attorney General George Noelke, who is retiring from state service in July. Noelke is concluding a 25-year career with the Office of the Attorney General and 16 years as TCJS’ legal counsel.
TCJS Data Reports as of April 1:
- Completed Jail Projects: Wheeler County Jail, 48-bed new jail; Walker County Jail, 248-bed new jail.
- Jails in Compliance/Non-Compliance: 238 jails in compliance; seven jails in non-compliance.
Status and Composition of Jail Populations:
- The total population in Texas county jails increased by 284 from the previous month. Statewide capacity increased by two due to a corrected bed count at Montgomery County.
- County jails are now collectively operating at 68.68 percent of capacity. Four jails are at 100 percent or more of capacity.
- Some 39 TDCJ halfway house inmates are being housed in county facilities.
- Local facilities are housing 214 out-of-state inmates (New Mexico and Arkansas) in five facilities.
- The total number of contact inmates (county, federal, TDCJ, and out-of-state) is 8,505.
- The next TCJS meeting will take place Aug. 7.