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Hays County moves toward compliance with state jail standards

Wednesday, November 4, 2009 by Austin Monitor

Hays County Commissioners are moving forward with extensive repairs and renovations to the county jail in an effort to pass muster with the State Commission on Jail Standards. Hays County Judge Liz Sumter will appear before the state commission on Thursday in an effort to show that the county is in compliance with state standards.


A state inspection in September revealed problems with the county’s jail facility, including a leaking roof and HVAC system, rust on cell doors, mold in the kitchen and in some cells, and a broken two-way communications system between inmates and corrections officers.


The county wants to reassure the state that it is fixing these problems. A letter from Sumter to the State Commission on Jail Standards went out Oct. 30 in anticipation of Sumter‘s visit to the commission. In it, each violation cited by state inspectors is addressed, including the one that will require the most costly repair — the roof.


On Tuesday, county commissioners approved a $293,000 contract with Fifth Wall Roofing Systems to remove and replace the roof of the Hays County Law Enforcement Center, which includes the county jail.


But the renovations approved at Commissioners Court on Tuesday — a new roof, decking, kitchen facilities, and the heating and air conditioning system — are only a short-term fix. Pct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton told Sumter he wanted to be sure the state commission understood that they do not consider the current fixes to be a long-term solution, which could mean the construction of a new jail.


Sumter addressed this issue in her letter to the state, writing, “The Court is mindful that a long-term plan is required and is working toward that goal.” According to the letter, the county has formed a Jail Task Force to address both short- and long-term problems. In addition, she said, commissioners approved a contract for a study of the county judicial system in July to address functional and growth issues.


“I appreciate you addressing the question of what is the most financially responsible and safest and most humane way to treat prisoners over the long run,” Barton said. “And that’s a totally separate issue from the short-term repairs.”

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