Two CTX jails failed standard inspections

Posted at 12:42 PM, Aug 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-28 09:30:24-04

Two Central Texas jails are out of compliance after an unannounced visit by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards earlier this month.

The Limestone County Jail and the Jack Harwell Detention Center in McLennan County must now submit a plan of action to the commission to address the areas of non-compliance.

According to a special inspection report conducted on Aug. 13, jailers at Jack Harwell Detention Center in McLennan County didn't check on all inmates every hour as required by minimum jail standards. Instead, the face-to-face observations ranged from 54 minutes up to one hour and 35 minutes. 

According to the state agency, someone falsified the observation logs, but a video later revealed the checks didn't happen at the time they were listed.

The inspection report also revealed jailers didn't check on mentally ill or suicidal inmates every 30 minutes. Instead, those inmates waited 30 minutes up to two hours for someone to visit their cell. 

"Face to face observation is one of the most important standards. When inmates are not being observed, anything can happen ranging from assaults, suicides or escapes. It is a basic tenant of operating a jail," Texas Commission on Jail Standards Executive Director Brandon Wood said. 

He said the state agency doesn't have the criminal authority and that would either rest with the county or the Texas Rangers if they were requested to investigate. 

According to the McLennan County Sheriff's Office, at this time it appears to be a training issue but the entity plans to review all information before making any determination. 

In addition, the report states jailers were not at their assigned wings, which goes against the staffing plan the private company submitted in April. 

La Salle Corrections manages the Jack Harwell Detention Center and hires all staff at the facility. However, the McLennan County Sheriff's Office oversees the operations of that jail. 

"It is concerning but we're doing everything we can as a sheriff's office to work with them to correct these issues," Captain Ricky Armstrong said. "At this point, we are talking to them daily, working with Jack Harwell, offering them any assistance they need from our officers."

The Jack Harwell Detention Center has failed inspections three times in the past four years. In 2015, after a failed inspection, three correctional officers were arrested accused of lying about doing a headcount the same day an inmate committed suicide.

The Limestone County Jail failed an inspection on Aug. 14 after it was determined that jailers didn't check on at-risk inmates every 30 minutes as required by law. In addition, the report states there is no two-way voice communication system between inmates and jailers. 

The commission was unable to verify if inmates were being offered at least one hour for three days a week, as required by law. 

Central Texas News Now contacted La Salle Corrections and the Limestone County Sheriff's Office on Monday afternoon but has not heard back. 

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