Monday, December 15, 2008

Jail Standards Commission may prioritize riskiest jails

The Sunset Commission recommended that the Texas Commission on Jail Standards evaluate county jails by risk factors and focus more regulatory attention on counties with higher risks.

I'd like to see TCJS more engaged with counties which have overcrowding problems to develop diversion strategies and solutions that reduce unnecessary incarceration. They also need more authority and staffing to monitor jail healthcare. Sunset's third recommendation seems to move in that direction, suggesting an expansion of the Commission's "technical assistance" functions for local jails.

See the Sunset staff's report (pdf) on TCJS.


Anonymous said...

While the TCJS was started with the best
intentions and goals, it has become a bureaucracy which imposes a one size fits all set of
standards on county facilities. Throughout the criminal justice field efforts to enforce a zero
tolerance, local situation be‐ignored mentality have failed. The TCJS has done just this through
unfunded mandates that serve only to continually justify the further expansion of the TCJS at
the expense of the local taxpayer.
The inspection process has become inefficient and cumbersome to the local entities. Inspectors
spend a large amount of time searching for small errors that have little bearing on the overall
efficiency of the county facility being inspected and the safety and security of the inmates
housed in these facilities. Currently, the state spends thousands of dollars in mandated local
inspections for such public safety issues as generators, boilers, fire alarms, smoke removal, food
service, medical, electrical and sanitation standards. TCJS then sends inspectors throughout the
state of Texas to review these inspections which could be electronically transmitted to Austin.
This change alone could save untold amounts of money if it were implemented.
It is not practical to ask elected officials to spend millions to build or ship inmates out of a
crowded jail when the county sheriff or commissioners do not have control over all the factors
affecting inmate numbers. The population of county jails in Texas is affected by many variables.
Currently, the lack of space in the Texas prison system, the lack of mental health beds and the
general slowing economic conditions are severely cramping the county jails in Texas.
Commanding a financially‐strapped county to either build a new facility or to ship inmates to
out‐of‐county jails to relieve a temporary “spike” in population is another example of the “one
size fits all” approach the TCJS has adopted.
Every jail issue cannot be addressed and most issues that are being addressed are open to
interpretation. However, it would be beneficial to most departmental budgets if a material and
equipment list, which included cost factors, could be posted on the TCJS web‐site. This would
allow departments to view an example of items approved by the TCJS. For example, if a
department wishes to replace a sink they must explore options, the selected option sent to the
TCJS and then wait for a protracted time to receive either approval or disapproval. A posted, prapproved
list for jail equipment would allow departments to determine a cost factor and save
man hours searching for items that meet with TCJS approval. This is but one example of the
“outside the box” thinking needed at TCJS. Local jail facility problem resolution with the support
and assistance of the state and not heavy‐handed totalitarian direction will yield better results
and much improved relations with the state.”

Anonymous said...

An agency with little or no enforcment authority and one that should be reorganized.

The executive director of TCJS asked for a $12,000 dollar pay raise. I wonder if he will get it and how that will improve the mission of this agency.

Anonymous said...

Too many improper relationships between and county and TCJS staff to see any real change.

And anyone can pass an announced inspection then go back to doing things their own way until the next announced inspection.

Since TCJS has little or no authority to impose any penalties on counties, this agency is a waste of taxpayer money. A perfect example is the many counties who have failed 3 out their last 5 inspections yet continue to operate without any sort of financial penalty.

Gordonsmom said...

Is there really suppose to be healthcare in county jail!?! That would be great if it were true. And what a novel idea to have a board to review the cases of those jailed to see if they really should be there...shouldn't that happen before the warrent is issued. What about the constant moving of inmates from non crowded facilities in order to make a few dollars. In my son's case he has been moved four times in the past four months that he has been in and was assaulted in his sleep the last time which left him with two black eyes, a 1 inch gash on his head which needed sticthes and a mild concussion which he has received zero medical attention for. He is in jail on hersay which has been refuted but he is still in.