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Texas Attorney – Is Increased Jail Staffing Necessary to Reduce the Number of Suicides in Texas Jails? – Part 4

Intake Screening

Intake screening aimed at the prevention of suicide and identifying inmates with mental disabilities is required to be completed immediately upon the arrival of all inmates being booked into jail. Screening is considered vital because, without it, at-risk inmates are more likely, for instance, to be placed with the general population, where face-to-face checks only occur every 60 minutes at most as opposed to every 30 minutes. Various steps are involved with the total process of handling inmates with mental disabilities and/or suicidal tendencies.

The 2020 jail records that were examined reflect that three Texas jails were non-compliant with regard to intake screening. The following are the notes recorded by Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) jail inspectors about what records reflected at the three jails in violation of this standard:

  1. During the review of medical files, it was discovered that the Screening Form for Suicide and Medical/Mental/Developmental Impairments is not being filled out in its entirety by the jail staff.
  2. The form for suicide screening was not completed on an inmate who committed suicide by hanging himself.
  3. Suicide screening forms were reviewed, and it was found that they were not being fully completed.

Holding cells in Texas jails are provided to hold inmates who are pending the intake or release process and for other reasons temporary holding may be needed. The limit for being held in holding cells is 48 hours. One Texas jail was cited for violation of this standard. A particular inmate was held in February 2020 for nearly three full days.

See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and this ongoing story to learn more about non-compliance of standards in Texas jails.

The purpose of this post is to provide helpful information. There is no intention to suggest that wrongdoing has occurred on the part of any person or organization.

–Guest Contributor

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Texas Attorney – Is Increased Jail Staffing Necessary to Reduce the Number of Suicides in Texas Jails?

A frequent topic as regards Texas jails is a continued lack of improvement in the number of custodial suicides. Notably, no significant reductions in suicides have been evident in Texas jails, even since the 2017 enactment of the Sandra Bland Act. The law is designed to reduce jail suicides through improved screening and more frequent inmate monitoring. The Act is named after Sandra Bland, who committed suicide in the Waller County Jail.

A major problem with enacting the new law is that no funds have accompanied the new requirements, though an increase in jail staff is typically needed. Even before the new law went into effect, the executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS), Brandon Wood, said that carrying out the required 30-minute checks for at-risk inmates was already creating staffing challenges for jails.

The 239 jails in Texas are regularly inspected by TCJS, and, of every four inspections, one jail, on average, is found to be non-compliant. What is especially concerning is that there is a relatively high frequency of non-compliance with standards considered to be crucial steps in preventing custodial suicide and other deaths.  

See this continuing series to learn about 2020 non-compliance in Texas jails as relates to jail standards aimed at preventing custodial suicide.

The purpose of this and all posts on this website is to provide information. There is no intent for this or any of the posts on this site to infer that any person or institution has engaged in misconduct.

–Guest Contributor

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