Another notable change at TCJS:
In an effort to provide greater access to our quarterly workshops and Commission meetings, we are excited to inform you that you are now able to watch us via webcast. Simply log on to Texas Legislature Online (www.legis.state.tx.us) and click on House Video Broadcasts under the Legislative Activity section. You can view the November Commission meeting by visiting the Archived Capitol Events section. Future workshops and meetings will be broadcast live, or may be viewed at a later time by visiting this section.Munoz's #2, Brandon Wood, wrote in the newsletter that TCJS is for the first time now collecting two new pieces of information related to jail staff turnover and the number and cost of illegal immigrants in jails. On staff turnover, "It will require several months’ worth of data before any trends are identified, possibly even a year’s worth."
However, they did get some preliminary findings on immigration numbers: Based on self-reported costs, Texas counties spent just over $7 million in the month of September to house 5,799 inmates with an immigration detainer for a total of 117,700 inmate days. Most of that amount (more than $84 million per year, annualized) historically has been reimbursed by the feds. However, between budget constraints and new accountability measures, that money may not be flowing quite as freely in the near future:
Even if the Federal reimbursement program survives, it is expected to be funded at a rate less than this most recent fiscal year. The initial funding request for the program was $194 million dollars less than the previous year and is expected to no longer allow for reimbursement of unverified inmates and focus more on removal of criminal aliens. In order to receive reimbursement, inmates will have to be verified, which can be accomplished through programs such as Secure Communities.A report on the most recent Commission meeting mentioned that, "the Commission voted to approve Harris County’s application for 720 variance beds, an application that was opposed by two Texas legislators."
This is an important change, since in the past, unknown inmate days were allowed to be submitted for reimbursement.
Lots of jails are still getting built: At the time the newsletter was published, "Eight jails are in the planning stages and 19 jails are under construction." Several jails just completed new construction, including 200 new beds in Harrison County (Marshall), 219 in Midland County, and 356 beds in Cameron.
Finally, the Commission will be comprehensively reviewing minimum Texas jail standards over the coming months at workshops preceding each of their next three meetings. (The next workshop and meeting are Feb. 2 and 3, respectively.) Here are the deadlines for commenting on minimum jail standards for anyone who'd like to contribute to the review: