County jail passes state inspection again
By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor
Sept 28, 2007 - For the second consecutive year, Hopkins County’s jail received good marks on its jail inspection, with only a few recommendations made by state inspectors, according to Hopkins County Sheriff Butch Adams.
Two inspectors conducted the evaluation Thursday on cleanliness, cell and jail maintenance and functionality, and record-keeping. The pair found the jail to meet state standards, warranting recertification. That allows the jail to continue operations for another year without further inspection unless the licensing board receives complaints, Adams said.
The inspectors also made recommendations for improvements in staff-inmate ratios, the male inmate recreational area, plumbing and sally port doors, according to Adams and Jail Administrator Geno Castaneda.
The recommendations included a survey at the jail to determine whether at least one additional jailer is needed, then present the information to county officials.
�During days we�re OK, but it�s the evening and nights we have to watch closely," Adams said. "They recommended a personnel survey to be done by them (the Texas Commission on Jail Standards). They�ll make recommendations and then we submit it to the [commissioners] court."
Castaneda said the jail tries to keep four jail staff on duty per shift. Two jailers generally “work the floor,” while a third is stationed primarily in the guard shack. The fourth is available to transport inmates to court, medical appointments or other locations.
But officers in the guard shack aren’t counted when factoring staff-inmate ratios. And if a jail staff member calls in sick, or the jail fills with more than 96 inmates or inmates have to be transported to more than one location, the jail could be in violation of the required ratio of one jailer for every 48 inmates. The jail exceeded the limit twice last year.
Sometimes, reserve jailers are able to fill in the gaps on days in which the jailer-inmate ratio exceeds capacity, but because it is a voluntary program staffed by individuals who have jobs and other duties elsewhere, they are not always available when the need arises. The same goes for part-time staff — there’s no guaranty the need will fall on their designated shift, Adams explained.
The state jail standards inspectors recommended the situation be evaluated to determine whether another staff member should be required.
The jail will also be adding a wind screen to the male recreational area fencing, as recommended. The report recommended the screen to keep people from looking through the existing fencing into the area, as well as seeing the inmates from a distance.
Aging plumbing is also another area recommended for improvements. Adams said plumbing is something frequently needing attention because it is aging along with the building. He said it often is the case that something else breaks shortly after another repair is made to the plumbing.
One problem area has been addressed, however. The main trouble in the past has been a grease trap. After being out the cost of “fixing it” several times, the whole trap was redone at the first part of the year at a cost of $13,000 to finally repair the problem instead of making temporary fixes.
The sheriff’s office also has to replace the heavy sally port doors with lighter doors designed to stop if any object is struck as the doors are being lowered. The existing doors did not stop as they should have. Lighter doors also will limit any damages should they strike an object.
Adams said that while inmate population has been a problem — the jail at times held up to 102 — not all were counted as “inmates.”
�Until they have been arraigned and placed in a cell in the back, they are �in holding.� If they are in holding, they are not considered inmates.� Adams explained.
He added that Castaneda and jail staff have been working diligently to maintain and meet jail standards year-round, including monitoring inmate population.
Adams also nnoted that local judges work with the staff to quickly expedite the process.