More than 65,000 people are sitting in county jails in Texas. Like with people in state custody, it is important to ensure that people in county custody are treated justly and have access to needed services. The bills below will address the treatment of people with an intellectual or developmental disability, improve access to a mental health professional while detained, and provide for a safer discharge process.
HB 3116 (Author: White | Sponsor: West), Relating to the establishment of a task force to conduct a comprehensive study on best practice standards for the detention of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This bill establishes a task force to conduct a comprehensive study on best practice standards for the detention of a person with an intellectual or developmental disability in county jail. The study must identify and make recommendations regarding current policies and procedures in county jails, barriers to accommodations and justice, best practices used in other states, and policies that would improve jail standards.
Task force members must include, among others, representatives of: TCJS, a statewide organization that advocates for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, a city or county governmental agency that supports individuals with such disabilities, a city or county governmental agency that provides mental health services, a statewide organization that represents municipalities, a statewide organization that represents corrections professionals, a law enforcement entity, and a county jail.
By December 2020, the task force must publicly release a written report that includes a description of its activities, its findings and recommendations, a plan for how best practice standards can be implemented statewide, and any legislative proposals. The task force is abolished in September 2021. – Signed by the Governor; effective on 9/1/2019
HB 4468 (Authors: Coleman, Yvonne Davis, Collier | Sponsor: Whitmire), Relating to county jails and community mental health programs in certain counties. Prior to passage of this bill, county jails were required – per rules and procedures adopted by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) – to give incarcerated individuals the ability to access a mental health professional 24 hours a day. Under this bill, if a mental health professional is not at the county jail at the time, jail personnel must use all reasonable efforts to arrange for the person to have access to a mental health professional within a reasonable time; TCJS must update relevant rules and procedures by January 2020.
This bill also states that county jailers appointed on a temporary basis must be enrolled in a preparatory training program (related to the operation of a county jail) on or before the 90th day after their temporary appointment. Such appointments cannot be renewed, and a county jailer appointed on a temporary basis cannot be promoted to a supervisory position in a county jail. – Filed without the Governor’s signature; effective on 9/1/2019
Other, unrelated provisions of this bill are included in the section titled “Bills Related to Decarceration, Sentencing Reform & Community-Based Supports,” specifically in the sub-section on “Safe Diversions from Incarceration & Support for Community-Based Substance Use and Mental Health Treatment.”
SB 1700 (Author: Whitmire | Sponsor: Miller), Relating to the discharge of a prisoner from a county jail. A defendant convicted of a misdemeanor and sentenced to any term of confinement must discharge his or her sentence and be released by the sheriff or county jail administrator between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. on the day of discharge. Note: The sheriff or administrator can credit defendants with up to 18 hours of time served and release them between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. on the day before their discharge.
The sheriff or administrator can release the defendant after 5 p.m. and before 6 a.m. if the defendant:
- agrees or requests release during that time;
- is subject to an arrest warrant in another county and is being released for purposes of executing that warrant;
- is being transferred to the custody of another state, the federal government, or a Texas Department of Criminal Justice facility; or
- is being admitted into an inpatient mental health facility or state-supported living center for court-ordered mental health or intellectual disability services.
Signed by the Governor; effective on 9/1/2019