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Jail Commission Meeting: Thursday, February 6th, 2020

Every 3 months, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) holds a meeting in Austin, and you can make comments during public input. You need to be brief: 3 minutes is the time allowed. Be there a few minutes before 9 am to sign up to speak. That’s the only time you can speak your mind so be on time!

They listen and don’t respond, but if you stay until the end of the meeting, you may speak to the staff or commissioners informally.

Meeting info is posted here, but it’s only updated the week before the meeting.  At this time, between legislative sessions, the meetings are held at the John H. Reagan Building 105 West 15th Street, 1st Floor, Room 120.* There is street parking, but it’s hard to find, so it may be best to park in the Capitol’s public parking garages–allow 10 min. for walking time.

The Jail Commission has the authority to inspect the jails and call sheriffs out when their jail is found to violate the “minimum standards.” Sheriffs, jail administrators and county commissioners come to the meeting from all over the state to stand and speak to the commissioners, usually to discuss why their jail has been found out of compliance—failed an inspection, in other words. Executive director Brandon Wood and staff of TCJS discuss what violations were found and also approve construction plans, describe their staff’s activities, and propose changes in the minimum standards.

Some of it is complicated, but then, a jail is a complicated institution. Think of running a facility that operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with a constantly changing population—some of whom are violent and others on the verge of suicide. Keeping enough officers is another challenge because turnover is a constant in a world where the pay is low and frustrations high.

Big city jails are complex systems holding thousands of inmates and employing hundreds of staff members. The more than 200 smaller rural jails have limited staff, space and budgets but still must cope with a diverse population with many needs. TCJS walks the fine line of overseeing these jails and holding them to the standards, while allowing for the differences in counties, sheriffs, and buildings that range in age from brand new to more than 100 years year old.


The Texas Commission on Jail Standards states that it is a state regulatory agency responsible for enforcing jail conditions at local jails in the state. It sets rules establishing minimum standards for the construction and operation of jails, and its inspectors check them once a year for compliance. Presently, in 2016, there are only four inspectors for the entire state.

Created in 1975 by the Texas Legislature, the commission consists of of a nine-member panel appointed by the governor to staggered, six-year terms that expire in January of odd-numbered years. The small staff is headed up by executive director Brandon Wood.


Your sister Leah is in the Bowie County Jail and she’s not getting the correct medicine for her ulcer. She is in pain and has only been given an antacid, but soon the symptoms return and she is deteriorating.

You fill out the online complaint form on the TCJS website. You wait for a response, and finally you call them. But TCJS explains that there is a catch–the “standards” do not govern medical care. Each jail is responsible for choosing its doctor or medical provider, and that person decides what treatment to give.

However, the inspector will probably voice your concern to the jail administrator, and just having the Jail Commission call them up and tell them about the complaint sometimes causes the jail administrator to check on an inmate’s medical condition. That combination of an outside agency questioning them sometimes results in an inmate like Leah getting better care—and more than an over-the-counter antacid.

If you have a concern about lack of care or a lack of official response, please submit a complaint and email us at info@texasjailproject.org to let us know.