Coryell County Commissioners discuss jail noncompliance

By BRITTANY FHOLER
Cove Leader-Press 

The Coryell County Commissioners Court discussed the next step in a plan for action relating to the recent notice of the County Jail’s noncompliance with the Texas Commission on Jail Standards for exceeding the maximum capacity of inmates during a special meeting held Friday. 
The Coryell County Jail had previously been found to be out of compliance due to overcrowding back in April 2021. As a result, the Commissioners signed an agreement with Erath County in May 2021. 
County Judge Roger Miller explained that there is a tentative date set for February regarding the Texas Commission on Jail Standards and the report of non-compliance. 
The Coryell County Jail has capacity for 92 inmates, but Coryell County has had up to 110 inmates some days, according to Sheriff Scott Williams. 
The report from TCJS showed that Coryell County had been housing inmates over the rated capacity for multiple days: September 12, October 13, and October 17-25. 
Coryell County has/has had agreements for housing inmates in other counties including: Bosque, Burnet, Limestone, McLennan, Mills, Milam County, Grimes County and Erath County. 
Williams said one issue he and his employees are facing is when they pick up inmates to transport for court and being unable to return those inmates once court is done before Texas Department of Criminal Justice takes them. 
Across the state, a common issue is having the bed space but not having staff for the inmates. The law states there must be no less than one officer/jailer per 48 inmates. 
Williams briefly touched on the idea of portable buildings for housing inmates. 
“According to Jail Standards- everybody wants to have a tent city, this, that and the other, and that is a wonderful idea, but they have to be minimum custody inmates to live in such a facility, and it has to be staffed like you would staff just an actual jail,” Williams said. 
Williams said the whole criminal justice system is bogged down, after court cases are resuming trial hearings in person following the Zoom trials during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
“I believe it’s safe to say it’s not just one problem necessarily, but an accumulation that has bogged all of us down to the point that no  matter how hard you’re working, you can’t keep up, and that’s from the jail all the way to the court system,” Williams said. “As far as the avenues that we have to be able to house outside of the jail- Mr. Belt’s office, Pretrial Service, us. We’re doing everything we can to get those people along.”
Miller said that District Attorney Dusty Boyd provides information including the jail roster. He suggested that county officials hold a weekly meeting in conjunction with Boyd’s list, to include the District Attorney, the County Attorney, the Pretrial Services Department, the Sheriff, the County Judge, and the County Commissioners (on a rotating basis) for updates on the County’s inmates and their whereabouts. 
“I think that would let us actively participate in that vetting process on a weekly basis with the key players in the system and see where…so we can accurately track that,” Miller added. 
Commissioner Kyle Matthews said he didn’t have a problem with that but didn’t understand the purpose. 
“I’m looking for ways that we can be engaged, so when we do talk to the Jail Commission again, they say, ‘What are you doing?’, and I don’t know of anything else really that we can do,” Miller said about his suggestion. 
The jail serves the 440th District Court, the 52nd District Court and the County Court at Law. Through the county’s pre-trial services, the Sheriff’s Office is trying to move those with misdemeanors and lesser charges out of the jail as they await their trial. If anyone meets the criteria for a personal recognizance bond (PR bond), this bond allows for them to await their trial at home. 
Sheriff Williams said that pretrial services doesn’t touch on the inmates facing more serious charges, like sexual assault, multiple aggravated assaults, murder, etc. These inmates are the ones who often cannot be transported to be house out of county or in the other possible ways to accommodate the need, such as portable buildings for housing inmates. 
Coryell County has 34 positions within the Jail under the Sheriff’s Office, with only three positions unfilled. 
The Commissioners ended up taking action and approving the scheduling of a workshop meeting during the first 10 days of December to include all connected officials with the county’s Criminal Justice branch- from the attorneys to the Justices of the Peace and other officials- to discuss the topic. 

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