Sheriff: Liberty County Jail fails Jail Commission inspection, receives praise for improvements

The visiting area at the Liberty County Jail is pictured.

The Texas Commission on Jail Standards paid a visit to the Liberty County Jail last week. While Liberty County failed the overall inspection due to overcrowding, the county jail, with a maximum bed space of 291, received praise for numerous inspection points related to recordkeeping, security checks, food service, medical services, hygiene, jail sanitation, recreation logs, suicide logs, and compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act, according to Warden Anne Marie Mitchell.

“If it wasn’t for the overpopulation of the jail, we would have been golden,” Mitchell said. “The inspector said everything else was a complete 180-degree turn for Liberty County. We have improved that much. The inspector even named some outstanding employees – Gaylen Germany, our food service supervisor, and Charlise Fobbs, our recreational supervisor, for their efforts.”

Overcrowding in the Liberty County Jail will continue being a problem as the county grows and as the court system struggles to catch up with a backlog of cases that stacked up during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Sheriff Bobby Rader.

“Law enforcement will keep making arrests when people break the law and the judges are working hard to catch up on the cases. If you check crime statistics, you will see that the first six to seven months of 2022 is equal to the statistics of all of 2021. Crime is up. That means law enforcement, the jail and the courts are going to continue being busy,” Rader said.

Some of the improvements in the other areas of the jail inspection were the result of new programs and policies, and the implementation of communication systems and recreational events for the inmates, said Mitchell.

“The inmates now have a library, basketball tournaments and drawing contests. They also have a new way to contact their loved ones on the outside through instant messaging. We have established kiosks in the dorms where the inmates can message their loved ones. It helps with suicide issues and discipline,” she said.

The new communications system eliminates the need for a correctional officer to spend two hours per day delivering mail to inmates in their cells. By scanning the letters into an electronic system, the Jail has lowered the risk of contraband items falling into the hands of inmates.

“We are saving money and allocating those correctional officers elsewhere in the jail. As a result of the new communication system, morale is up for the inmates,” Mitchell said.

State and federal laws dictate that inmates must be treated with dignity and respect. One major challenge for any jail is inmate medical care, particularly as it relates to mental health. On Tuesday, Aug. 23, Liberty County Commissioners Court approved a budget amendment to increase the number of hours for nursing and mental health professionals to attend to the needs of inmates. This budget amendment kicks in on Oct. 1.

Mitchell said her staff also is participating in CPR training next week so they are ready to respond to an inmate or jail employee in a crisis.

“We also have started doing field training for our new correctional officers to get them ready before being assigned on their own.

Liberty County officials recognize that the county has outgrown its current jail and are in talks to have a new facility built on the grounds of the new Liberty County Law Enforcement Center on SH 146 North. Construction of the new law enforcement center is wrapping up and the sheriff’s office and other agencies are expected to move in sometime in September.

“Even if we start construction of a new jail tomorrow, it would take at least two years to build,” said Sheriff Rader. “We are lucky because we used Burns Architect for the law enforcement center and they are building a jail facility in the Midlands area that has plans we can use for our facility. That will save some time.”

Rader and Mitchell said they are proud of the Jail employees for their hard work.

“All of the employees work very, very hard. I found out from the inspector that Liberty County is one of a few facilities that serves hot meals three times a day to inmates. For that, he praised Ms. Germany. It was a team effort to pass on so many points,” Rader said.

Mitchell echoed Rader’s praise for the jail staff by saying, “It is an incredibly hard job and I am thankful to each and every one. We wouldn’t have gotten positive remarks on the testing had it not been for them.”

2 COMMENTS

  1. How much of the court docket and jail space would be freed if Texas, like 19 other states, legalized marijuana for recreational use? Decriminalized possession of small amounts, like nearby LA and MS? Decriminalization is done selectively now in Texas, if you’re not a minority, which only teaches deeper disrespect for law.

    Even our bordering states and arch-conservative neighboring states have decriminalized medical use – OK, AR, LA, MS, AL, FL, and MO. But, again, minorities and poor folks have unequal access to prescription pot – affluent folks do not.

    Marijuana has long been proven to not be addictive or the gateway drug it was feared. It’s far less dangerous than alcohol. How many automobile fatalities, family violence killing, or fatal bar fights are attributed to marijuana? Alcohol? No comparison.

    Further, forcing marijuana distributors underground has led to stronger street pot often laced with who knows what? Not to mention stronger and more addicting alternatives. If folks, even kids, want to get high, they will. Today, there are too many much, much stronger alternatives to marijuana. For example, Methamphetamine, OxyContin, synthetic and raw heroin, and God knows what else. I’ve family members whose lives have been ruined by each of those. They, the drugs, not my family, are truly tools of the devil. My family members weren’t fools. They were addicts.

    Perhaps, we should, in addition to legal reform, address the reasons folks, many otherwise good folks, are sinking more and more deeply into the abyss of addictions and getting high.

    Legalized, regulated, and taxed, marijuana reform is a win-win-win for all – users, law enforcement, and state revenues.

    Ask your representatives for change, now.

  2. Execute drug dealers. Give addicts two years to get clean and then charge anyone with illegal drugs as dealers. If you can’t face life without dope or alcohol you are truly weak.

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