Texas Sheriffs Learn Best Practices in Jail Administration & Management

New sheriffs from across Texas received a primer on best practices for managing their jails at the Correctional Management Institute of Texas (CMIT).

“It is a tremendous honor for the Correctional Management Institute of Texas at Sam Houston State University to provide this training to our Newly Elected Sheriffs focusing on their incredible responsibility on the administration and management of the jails under their supervision and authority,” said Doug Dretke, Executive Director of CMIT. “This program is a significant collaboration with the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, The Sheriffs Association of Texas, The Texas Association of Counties and the Texas Jail Association and provides a comprehensive overview of jail management and responsibilities. Our Sheriffs across the state represent committed, passionate, and dedicated law enforcement professionals and their participation in this training highlights their focus on enhancing public safety within their communities”

The Newly Elected Sheriffs' Session on Jail Administration Management & Operations is designed to arm sheriffs who have less than a year on the job with critical information regarding the administration of their jails, include risk management, jail standards, policies and procedures, staffing, and inmate supervision. The five-day course was attended by about 40 sheriffs.

“The information they provide will be invaluable for implementing different programs and policies to cover the county and the rights of the inmates,” said Sheriff Rusty Stewart of Anderson County, one of the participants.

Among the counties represented at the training were: Anderson, Andrews, Blanco, Brown, Coleman, Falls, Frio, Hamilton, Grayson, Hockley, Hutchinson, Jackson, Jim Wells, Kaufman, Lampasas, Lipscomb, Lynn, McCulloch, Montague, Montgomery, Ramsey, Robertson, Sherman, Travis, Wharton, Wise, and Wood.

“There are about 26,000 jailers in the state of Texas, and jails represent the largest liability and the biggest drain on the county budget,” said Brent Phillips of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, President of the TJA.

The program was created in 2008 in an effort to train sheriffs on their roles and responsibilities in jails, and this is the third time it is being offered. The program will be provided again in the fall for Sheriffs and Chief Deputies and will be delivered at least twice annually for newly appointed jail administrators across the state. The sessions, taught by those in the profession, included such topics as the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, legal issues, fiscal issues, duties of a jail administrator, staff training, custodial death, policy, wellness, leadership legacy and sheriff survival. “Every Sheriff should attend,” said one participant.

Some of the sessions focused on legal liabilities ad emerging issues involving jails, such as custodial deaths, communication, policy, and administration. It helped jail administrators to prepare for the challenges ahead.

“The liabilities are scary,” said Sheriff Scott Williams of Coryell County. “A lot of the thigs we are already doing, but I did pick up a few operational tips that we can use. There are a lot of resources out there that we can reach out to.”

Mental health issues among offenders is another major dilemma facing jail administrators, and Sheriff Dennis Wilson of Limestone County, president of the Sheriffs Association of Texas, outlined a plan under development to offer mandatory training for jailers on mental health issues, such as the use of screening instruments, resources available to staff, and de-escalation techniques for jailers.

Thomas Marshall, the new Sheriff of Montague County, said he wants continue to improve his county’s jail. “I got a lot of good tips on the things I can do,” said Marshall

The Texas Commission on Jail Standards provided an overview of the requirements for operating a jail in Texas, as well as the annual inspection process. Among the top problems the commission sees are life safety code violations, overcrowding, and staffing issues. Although the Commission is a regulatory agency, it also can serve as a resource before an issue becomes a problem.

Participants also received a brief on the process used by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to transfer offenders to the state prison system. Topping off the session was training on leadership skills., led by Randy Garner, Ph.D. of Sam Houston State University, College of Criminal Justice.

“(This is) a very capable program that will impact a Sheriff’s life, ability, and future to insure a competent, fair, knowledgeable, and strong working environment within his/her jail,” said another participant.

Member of The Texas State University System