Friday, February 01, 2019

Reasons Texas county jails failed their state inspections

When I saw that an inmate recently hanged himself in the Waller County Jail - the same jail in which Sandra Bland died - on a hunch, I checked to see if Waller has failed its last jail inspection. It had. But that also made me notice the list of other jails currently out of compliance with Texas Commission on Jail Standards regulations. So I looked through all of them and made a few notes. Here are the highlights:

In Waller County, jailers failed to check the detox cells in a timely fashion, misclassified several inmates at intake, failed to undertake required custody reassessments, and failed to make regular rounds as often as state regulations require. Required every-30-minute observations of inmates who are assaultive, suicidal, mentally ill, or displaying bizarre behavior were often exceeded, by from 1-74 minutes, according to jailer logs. MORE: This followup story from the Houston Chronicle goes into more detail on failures from the jail inspection.

In Victoria County, mold issues are a "serious health and safety concern for both inmates and staff."

In Tyler County, jailers were not properly filling out suicide screening forms or notifying the magistrate when an inmate was suicidal.

In Sutton County, jailers were not notifying magistrates of the results of suicide screening, and inmate menus have not been approved by a dietician since 2016.

In Shelby County, an un-monitored inmate was allowed to leave his work assignment for up to 2.5 hours at a stretch, during which time he engaged in illegal activity.

In San Saba, jailers are not giving the required suicide screening form to magistrates, and numerous maintenance problems were cited.

In Robertson County, jailers hadn't been trained in suicide prevention and observation logs showed they were exceeding the times they were required to check on inmates.

Red River County wasn't training jailers after they were hired and were not conducting welfare checks on inmates in detox.

In McLennan County, the jail failed to comply with the mandatory 1:48 staffing:inmate ratio, and failed to make timely checks on suicidal inmates.

In Limestone County, jailers failed to conduct daily cell inspections and were not checking on suicidal inmates as often as required.

In Liberty County, jailers were not notifying magistrates when inmates were suicidal, and contraband was found in inmate housing areas.

In Kinney County, the doors are open and shut via a control panel in the dispatch room, which is kept unlocked and accessible to inmates. In one instance, "an inmate opened doors for jail staff to access a cell area during a fight. It was also determined that the inmate, using jail keys, opened the gate to the west side of the jail to allow a jailer into the booking area." Also, jailers weren't notifying magistrates when inmates were suicidal.

In Jim Hogg County, jailers weren't filling out suicide screening forms and lunches did not match dietician-approved menus.

In Hunt County, jailers didn't receive suicide prevention training, were sometimes short-staffed, and weren't monitoring suicidal inmates often enough.

In Harris County, the jail was "not being kept at an acceptable level of cleanliness" and food being served failed to meet health code standards.

In Goliad County, jailers weren't filling out the mental health screening properly and the facility suffered from cleanliness issues.

In Frio County, the jail was short staffed, jailers aren't always notifying magistrates when inmates are suicidal, menus weren't approved by a dietician, and the facility was "unclean and unsanitary."

In Fisher County, jailers hadn't received suicide training and failed to check on the detox cells often enough.

In Fannin County, following an inmate's death it was determined jailers had exceeded check-in times by up to 49 minutes.

In Crockett County, the jail had no hot water in inmate living areas.

In Comanche County, jailers hadn't received suicide prevention training and the facility suffered from numerous maintenance issues.

In Bowie County, four jailers failed to meet licensing requirements and the jail failed to meet required staffing ratios.

The good news: at most jails, TCJS inspectors found jailers were making suicide rounds as required, weren't unsanitary or unclean, fed inmates dietician-approved meals, etc..  But when they find problems, this gives you a sense of what they look like. And it's little surprise that Waller County - a small jail with a history of suicide-prevention failure and documented, ongoing lack of observation of suicidal inmates - would see another suicide when they're not following proper protocols.

Perhaps, if the deceased Waller-County inmate had been monitored as often as state regulations require, he could have been found sooner and saved. Jail rules have reasons, even if they can seem bureaucratic and cumbersome. They are almost always created with the benefit of hindsight, which is why they can seem prescient when failure to follow them leads to a tragedy.


Gadfly said...

With a new DA, McLennan will probably have that staffing ratio come back into compliance, amirite?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I wouldn't be surprised at all, now that you say so, Gadfly! May take a minute. There's a lot of screwup to fix.

Unknown said...

Someone needs to check James Hix in Bell county jail he has been there close to 2 years with no court date.

I guess we are housing them here in Bell County

Anonymous said...

Will there be another round of investigations into the Waller County jail and the lack of oversite...there has already been 3 different versions told of the events. It appears that the jail standards look and want change but there is no followup to that demand