Smith County sheriff enacts changes after jail fails latest inspection

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TYLER, Texas (KETK) — During the latest inspection of the Smith County Jail, a backup emergency system did not work and some required procedures — including providing inmates clean clothes at all times — were not followed.

A Commission on Jail Standards inspector also cited the staff for not following inmate book-in procedures.

After the inspection June 21-23, the jail was placed in non-compliance.

Sheriff Larry Smith said the problems are being addressed.

“We already have everything ready to go back to the jail commission (for approval). We’re just dotting our I’s and crossing our T’s,” he said.

The inspector said the jail’s “smoke management system” did not work while under emergency power.

The Jail Commission requires jails to be have a backup generator that can power emergency lights, smoke alarms and security and ventilation systems if the electricity is lost.

Sheriff Smith said that just before the inspection, the county had replaced a backup generator.

“What had happened was some of the wires did not get hooked up properly when the generator was changed over, so that was an easy fix,” he said. “That (problem) was corrected before the jail inspector left.”

The inspector noted: “During the inspection, it was determined that inmates are not provided a change of clothing at least once a week.”

Smith said the inspection occurred when the jail was issuing only one jumpsuit to each inmate. While the jumpsuit was being laundered, inmates did not have another one to put on.

“What we’re supposed to do is if you take a jumpsuit from an inmate, you have to give them a jumpsuit, a clean one, to wear. You can’t leave them sitting in a cell with their boxers on and in a T-shirt. … We weren’t leaving them with a jumpsuit while we were laundering it.”

Smith said the county spent tens of thousands of dollars to buy more jumpsuits and now issues two jumpsuits to inmates to comply with the requirement. The jail is considering issuing three jumpsuits to each inmate: one to wear, one to keep in their cell and one to keep in storage, he said.

The inspector found some inmate files did not contain required documentation.

A jail staff intake officer is supposed to “carefully record” any property that is taken from an inmate and stored, according to the Jail Commission. The officer and inmate are both supposed to sign this record, which is placed in the inmate’s file.

When the inspector checked for this, he found “multiple property records were … blank and missing required signatures from the receiving officer and inmate.”

Smith said inmates are no longer allowed to be moved from the intake to secured areas in the jail until the property card is signed. Supervisors are making sure this is done., he added.

The inspector said the jail staff also was not making inmates sign records stating they had been shown the rules of the jail.

Smith said although inmates were presented the rules on an electronic devise, this did not meet the requirement that inmates “acknowledge” the rules.

“So we are fixing that,” Smith said.

Inmates are now required to sign a paper document stating they “acknowledge” the rules and must do so again before they can use an electronic tablet provided to them while in jail.

Smith said the county is documenting the corrective measures and will ask the commission to re-inspect the jail.

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