The month of May was interesting for the Rusk County Sheriff’s Department. An unannounced visit from the Inspector of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards showed up for their annual visit. This is not unusual for the visit to be unannounced since jails must meet state standards at any given time.
On May 15, 2020 Jail Standards Inspector William Phariss visited the Rusk County Jail and after a long and rigorous inspection declared the facility to be in compliance with the Texas Minimum Jail Standards and sent Sheriff Jeff Price a certificate of compliance to that effect.
“Generally the inspector will spend eight to ten hours a day inspecting the jail from two to three days per visit. It is a very thorough inspection,” said Sheriff Price.
When asked his thoughts about the audit, Sheriff Price said, “I can’t take the credit for that, all the credit goes to our Jail Administrator, Cassandra Shaw.”
Shaw responded and said, “I’m super proud of my jail staff especially dealing with the COVID-19. The inspector inspects our jail annually and is our watchdog. He checks everything from the ceiling to the floor. He makes sure that everyone is safe and currently we have no COVID-19 cases.”
According to Shaw everyone that is brought into the jail is monitored, especially medically. Everything that you do has to be documented and will be inspected.
Phariss did however advise that technical assistance was needed in some areas and failure to address the technical assistance areas in a timely manner may result in the issuance of a notice of non-compliance.
Out of 23 listed inspections there were only two that needed technical assistance and one inspector’s note.
The two items that needed technical assistance were Life Safety and admission. According to the report during a walk-through of the facility all fire extinguishers were past due one month on their service inspection. These fire extinguishers must have an inspection within the next 30 days from the inspection on May 15. If inspection is not performed within the 30-day time period a notice of noncompliance will be issued.
Sheriff Price said, “The reason that the fire extinguishers were not inspected before the due date was no one from the outside was allowed in the jail because of COVID-19 mandates. Those have since then been inspected and passed. The inspector was aware of this but still had to note it as needing technical assistance.”
The second item was admission. A random sampling of 12 inmates files were reviewed. While reviewing observation logs for holding cells it was determined that jail staff on occasion were exceeding the 30-minute observation time from one to 19 minutes. The time frame must be every 30 minutes for those inmates in holding and detox cells. The action requires that administration provide documented roster training to all jail staff within 30 days. If this task is not performed a notice of noncompliance will be issued. It has since then been resolved.
The inspector also gave a special note on the sanitation of the facility saying that during the walkthrough he observed the facility to be very clean both visually and aromatically.