News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Dallas County Jail inspection identifies 'technical issues,' unclear if it passed

Photograph of the Dallas County jail.
State inspectors made an unannounced visit to the Dallas County Jail this week.

State inspectors dropped into Dallas this week to inspect the county jail. It’s an annual review that last year led to a three-month designation of “noncompliance” with state minimum standards.

The results of the current inspection are murkier. County officials received a briefing from inspectors on Friday, but the report was not released. A spokesman at the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) said it will be reviewed and made final by the agency’s assistant director and executive director, Brandon Wood. After the county receives the final report, it can be publicly released.

Any finding of noncompliance will be posted to the TCJS website.

“At the end of the day, the director, Mr. Wood, will have the final say,” Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price said after Friday’s briefing. “They’re just saying that there are some technical issues that we have, and that they’ve given us a planned date to ameliorate those issues.”

Dallas County Sheriff Marian Brown, whose office runs the jail, did not talk to reporters after the briefing. Inspectors from TCJS also did not answer media questions.

Price said inspectors want operational improvements at the county jail — like documenting when laundry is dropped off to people in custody. He also said they noted jammed doors — something Price said the county’s facility staff works hard to fix.

“They understood that,” Price said of the state inspectors.

Man speaking at a podium.
Bret Jaspers
Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price.

According to Price, inspectors gave the jail various timelines for making improvements — some 30 days, others 60 days. For example, the state wants weekly tests of the jail’s generators for the next 90 days.

Price said inspectors provided “no commentary whatsoever” on anything related to COVID-19 testing or isolation, and there were no dings for staffing levels. Texas code requires at least one jailer for every 48 people in custody, and there must be at least one jailer on every floor that houses ten inmates or more.

To stay in compliance with those staffing levels, jailers are often required to serve mandatory overtime. This led to significant burnout during the pandemic; working conditions prompted a lawsuit from jailers filed in state court, although it was dismissed. A group of people in custody at the jail also sued.

“We know in every tower, what’s the mandatory [jailers working overtime] versus volunteers,” Price said. “And it’s difficult.”

County records said there were 5,595 people in jail custody on Friday.

Friday’s meeting at the county administration building was set to be a two-part affair: a private briefing for county officials, and then a public one. Only two of five members of the commissioners court — Price and Theresa Daniel — arrived for the start of the private briefing. J. J. Koch arrived part-way through, forming a quorum that appeared to trigger the state’s open meeting rule.

Woman in uniform and facemask talking to other people in a meeting room.
Bret Jaspers
Dallas Co. Sheriff Marian Brown.

Still, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office told the media to wait outside the briefing room. When reporters were eventually allowed inside, inspectors had concluded their remarks, and gave no public briefing. County staff acknowledged Koch’s arrival had made it a public meeting and apologized.

The TCJS spokesperson said it is their policy that inspectors do not speak to the news media.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gifttoday. Thank you.

Got a tip? Email Bret Jaspers at You can follow Bret on Twitter @bretjaspers.

Bret Jaspers is a reporter for KERA. His stories have aired nationally on the BBC, NPR’s newsmagazines, and APM’s Marketplace. He collaborated on the series Cash Flows, which won a 2020 Sigma Delta Chi award for Radio Investigative Reporting. He's a member of Actors' Equity, the professional stage actors union.