Thursday, October 01, 2009

More jail inspections unannounced, TCJS creating catalog of best practices

Texas Commission on Jail Standards chief Adan Munoz spoke to a group of Rotarians in Sherman and the writeup in the Herald-Democrat contained several interesting tidbits. For starters:

Tom Nuckols and Denis Cowhig asked Munoz if he could give any examples of any counties that had adopted policies to reverse increasingly high incarceration rates. They pointed out that the U.S. has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world and Texas' and Grayson County's exceed the national rate. Nuckols cited alternatives such as drug courts, electronic monitors for non-violent offenders, treatment.

Munoz said that such alternatives are becoming much more prevalent to cope with rising crime rates.

"What we are advocating, although we can't tell you how to do it, is if you want to reduce your jail population, find alternative ways to deal with inmates. Talk to your district judges; talk to your district attorneys; talk to your probation officers; talk to anybody and everybody that has control over alternatives, either sentencing or incarceration."

Munoz advocated holding judges accountable for speedy dockets. "The sooner you get that inmate out of jail the sooner you are going to reduce overcrowding." He said that also goes for alternatives to jail time as a sentence, for processes like electronic monitoring.

Munoz said the Texas Legislature also has recommended TCJS to help develop a catalog of best practices that are happening across the state. This means tracking inmates through the system, and attach a dollar figure to speed and delays in each phase of the justice system. Such best practices would be shared with counties to replicate.

Munoz encouraged all those present with a piece of the puzzle to work towards developing a definition locally of best practices and enhance the use of them.

Henderson said that sounded like such a great solution, a simple fix "and I know I'm asking the wrong person here, but why in the world aren't we doing that?"

When Munoz agreed he was asking the wrong person, Henderson said, "I venture the right people are in this room."

I was also interested to see Munoz describe a change in TCJS inspection practices:

Munoz said the standards TCJS enforces are set not to coddle prisoners but to protect county taxpayers. Each jail is inspected once a year. Munoz said until this last legislative session, about 85 percent of its inspections were announced a couple of weeks before they occurred. The Legislature recommended a change in that practice and now 85 percent are surprise inspections.

I'll bet with more unannounced inspections, the failure rate goes up.

Kathy Williams at the Herald Democrat is providing excellent local coverage of Grayson's jail debates; this was a good, informative article.


Anonymous said...

Talk to your district judges; talk to your district attorneys; talk to your probation officers; talk to anybody and everybody that has control over alternatives, either sentencing or incarceration."

These officials, especially the elected ones mentioned here, don't like you pissing in their Cheerios. In a different world, Munoz would be right but I can assure you this is going to vary from county to county.

In some counties, mostly rural I would say, you don't run for district attorney either unless the district judges give their blessing. At least that's the consensus where I'm at.

This is all well and good, more unannounced inspections, bottom line though until TCJS starts imposing some sort of penalties or sanctions which apparently they cannot do or won't do in the way of remedial orders, closing jails, forcing county commissioners to house in another jail because of non-compliance, I don't seee any dramatic changes or anything that really is going to make an impact.

Anonymous said...

Knowing how you like to blog on Mr. Bradley, I don't know about Williamson County's jail population or how fast the docket moves, but Mr. Bradley seems to be an example of what I'm saying. If he is as bad as you always say, why do you suppose he ran unopposed the last two times?

John Bradley was appointed by Governor Rick Perry in December 2001 to serve as Williamson County District Attorney. Mr. Bradley ran a contested race and was elected to the office in 2002. He was re-elected in uncontested race in 2004and 2008.

Hook Em Horns said...

How about ALL inspections being unannounced??

Anonymous said...

"How about ALL inspections being unannounced??"

Good point. I always wonder why some seemed to get them all the time while others never got them. How about coming in around 2:00am in the morning instead of 8a-5p?

Course none of this is the way it happens. There would be so much he.. raising from certain organizations directed to state legislators who really call the shots for their local level politico constituents.

Anonymous said...

I chuckled at the comments made by Mr. Munoz, who by the way has a tough job, especially him being a former county sheriff.

When he says hold judges accountable he clearly does not know who runs the county courthouse and the criminal justice system. Ignorant voters from the sense of being uniformed keep putting these folks in office.

Anonymous said...

Woman gives birth alone in Taylor County Jail cell

October 1, 2009
Woman gives birth alone in Taylor County Jail cell Lisa Mijares claims to have given birth to her son three years ago in the Taylor County Jail in Abilene, TX. After allerting correctional staff that she was in labor, her request for help was reportedly ignored. Although the birth certificate of her son states he was born at Hendrick Medical Center, she claims that is not the case and that she and her son were transported to Hendrick after she gave birth. Mijares reportedly isn't the only woman to have given birth at the jail. In a separate alleged incident, the baby died. In this video interview, Mijares describes squating on her jail cell floor and catching the baby in her hands as she gave birth.

W W Woodward said...

I have been working in a jail in all capacities for 16 years. I recommend unannounced inspections by TCJS.

When jail administrators are given even a few days notification (warning) of an impending TCJS inspection incomplete paperwork, chronic maintenance problems, hygiene problems, food service, and other neglected areas all of a sudden become important factors.

It becomes extremely important that these problems be either fixed or covered up immediately.

The facility passes inspection and then it's business as usual the next day.

The jail should be maintained in such a manner that it is able to pass inspection at any time. The only way to insure this is to keep jail standards in mind at all times, not just in the few days immediately prior to an inspection.