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

In-custody death at Dallas County Jail under investigation

Photograph of Dallas County Jail
A death at the Dallas County Jail, which recently failed an inspection, is under investigation.

An in-custody death last week at the Dallas County Jail is under investigation. This comes at a time when the jail is struggling to meet minimum state standards after failing its annual inspection last month.

The executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, Brandon Wood, confirmed to KERA that his agency knew about the death. He said state law requires that an outside agency conducts a criminal investigation. TCJS will do its own review to look for violations of administrative rules.

Wood declined to identify the agency conducting the criminal probe. The Texas Rangers, which often investigates deaths in county jails, did not reply to an email from KERA.

The Dallas Observer first reported last week’s death of an inmate on suicide watch. It said a report from a detention officer said other inmates alerted jailers to the situation.

Inmates on suicide watch were of particular concern to state inspectors who visited the Dallas County Jail last month. After comparing written logs with video footage, they said observations of suicidal inmates in the intake holdover housing unit “were being incorrectly documented.”

Jail administrators were instructed to periodically give the state proof that written logs and videos “have been compared/verified and are in compliance with TCJS minimum jail standards and Dallas County Jail standard operation protocol.”

The failed inspection placed the facility on a list of “non-compliant” jails for the second year in a row. State regulators are working with the jail to get it back into compliance.

Wood said the in-custody death could affect the jail’s compliance, but it’s too soon to know.

“There may not be any issues whatsoever associated with this death in custody,” he said. “We just have to wait until we get done with the investigation.”

According to data from the Texas Justice Initiative and the Texas Attorney General’s Office, nine people died in 2021 in the custody of the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office, which runs the jail. The Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office had 13 in-custody deaths last year. The Collin County Sheriff’s Office had one.

Dallas County’s population is about 2.6 million residents, while Tarrant County has about 2.1 million and Collin County about 1 million.

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

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.

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.