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Smith County Jail in Tyler, Texas Fails State Inspection Again and Continues to have Serious Issues

DM County Jail
Sample Jail – not Smith County

The Smith County jail, in Tyler, Texas, appears to be having some serious issues of-late. There was a recent inmate death. The jail then failed an inspection by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) occurring in June 2021, and it has been listed by the TCJS as being non-compliant since that time. Now, two recent inspections by the TCJS resulted in two more postings on the TCJS website about the Smith County jail being non-compliant.

The TCJS inspected the Smith County jail on February 18, 2022 and found several minimum jail standards violations. The TJCS inspector determined, when referencing technical assistance provided to the Smith County jail during the June 2021 inspection, that the Smith County jail still was not complying with the assistance provided and thus violating Texas minimum jail standards. The inspector cited the jail standards provision requiring training of staff for emergency situations immediately upon employment and no less than each calendar quarter for all jail personnel. This would include emergency, fire, evacuation drills, and location and use of equipment. The TCJS inspector determined in February 2022 that Smith County jail documentation failed to show that all of its jail staff received training during the second and third quarters of 2021.

The Smith County jail, in Tyler, Texas, was also provided technical assistance during the June 2021 annual inspection regarding mentally disabled and/or suicidal inmates. The TJCS inspector, during the February 2022 inspection, noted this prior assistance. Regardless, in February 2022, Smith County jail documentation revealed that jail personnel did not notify a magistrate (for mentally ill inmates) within 12 hours as required by Texas law on multiple occasions, and whenever a magistrate was notified, the notification exceeded the 12-hour required maximum time frame by as little as 20 minutes and by as long as eight hours. Magistrate notification is extremely important, as such notification allows a person outside a jail to hopefully promptly address an inmate who has significant mental health issues and, potentially more important, is suicidal. If a jail failed to notify a magistrate appropriately, death and injury could have resulted.

During a February 2022 inspection, the TCJS inspector also referenced additional technical assistance provided to the jail during the June 2021 annual inspection. Now, the inspector determined that the Smith County jail was violating a very important minimum jail standard. That standard requires that the jail use an improved mentally disabilities/suicide prevention screening document immediately for all inmates admitted. This is very important, as the vast majority of our jail neglect and abuse cases in Texas involve issues which are disclosed on that initial document. It is a one-page document required by the TCJS. When the inspector reviewed Smith County jail documentation during the February 2022 inspection, documentation disclosed as Smith County jail personnel staff failed to complete the Screening Form for Suicide and Medical/Mental/Developmental Impairments in its entirety on multiple occasions. This failure can lead to serious injury and death, as we have noted by litigating cases in federal court across Texas due to unfortunate inmate deaths. Many of these deaths occur from suicide, and others occur from denial of medical care.

If results of the February 2022 inspection were not enough, pursuant to another special inspection on March 3, 2022, the Smith County jail was once again found to be non-compliant. The TCJS inspector noted the minimum jail standard that inmates shall not be held for more than 48 hours in a holding cell. Shockingly, the TCJS inspector found, after reviewing complaint response and documentation, that on January 25, 2022, inmate Brittany Klegg was put in a holding cell upon intake and remained there for approximately 192 hours. There is absolutely no excuse for leaving an inmate in a holding cell for such a long period of time. There is likewise no excuse for the Smith County jail failing to bring itself into compliance, having been warned of these issues months ago.

While we do not currently have any information about what led to the death of Torry Lamont Newman in the Smith County jail on February 18, 2022, the fact that the Smith County jail continues to be out of compliance could be some evidence that Mr. Newman’s death should not have occurred. We do not make an allegation of any wrongdoing against anyone regarding Mr. Newman’s death, but the failure to comply with minimum jail standards by any jail in Texas could lead to serious injury and/or death, such as the death of Mr. Newman. We previously wrote a post regarding Mr. Newman’s death, and it is at this link:

Written By: author image Dean Malone
author image Dean Malone
Dean Malone is the founder of Law Offices of Dean Malone, P.C., a jail neglect civil rights law firm. Mr. Malone earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Texas at Dallas, graduating summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA, and from Baylor University School of Law with a general civil litigation concentration. Mr. Malone served in several staff positions for the Baylor Law Review, including executive editor. Mr. Malone is an experienced trial lawyer, trying a number of cases to jury verdict and also handling arbitrations through final hearing. He heads the jail neglect section of his law firm, in which lawyers litigate cases involving serious injury and death resulting from jail neglect and abuse. Lawyers frequently refer cases to Mr. Malone due to his focus on this very complicated civil rights practice area.