Jails are like living organisms, breathing and moving 24/7/365 days a year.
Needing constant care and feeding, a jail requires a committed community to provide safety both to county residents and inmates.
The Texas Legislature created the Texas Commission on Jail Standards in 1975 to implement a statewide policy for all county jail facilities to conform to minimum standards of construction, maintenance, and operation. Its nine diverse members are appointed to staggered six-year terms by the governor with concurrence by the Texas Senate. This commission establishes, revises, and documents these minimum standards, including jail inspection procedures, enforcement policies and technical assistance.
The standards have been established for:
- Construction, equipment, maintenance, and operation of the jail
- Custody, care, and treatment of inmates
- Programs of rehabilitation, education, and recreation for inmates.
Inspections may be scheduled or unannounced and may require most of a week to accomplish; written reports are received by the sheriff after the review. Recently, after three days of scrutiny, the inspector announced to our County Judge, Sheriff Mike Gleason, and in the presence of Chief Deputy Ken Evans, that our Williamson County jail is the one in the state he would recommend anyone tasked with oversight and administration of a medium to large jail to visit.
Wow – another department showcasing the best in staff, strategy and administration joins our many departments such as EMS, the Juvenile Justice Center, Purchasing, and Budget offices as being recommended to other counties to study and emulate.
So how has this turnaround occurred? The County Sheriff is ultimately responsible for the county jail. Sharing this responsibility with Sheriff Gleason is Evans and the heavily recruited Assistant Chief Deputy Kathleen Pokluda. Our Sheriff started with Williamson County as a corrections officer and wound up as the Chief Jail Administrator before advancing to other leadership positions in the Sheriff’s department.