By Sonya Campbell
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON - The Bell County Commissioners Court on Tuesday recognized Sheriff Dan Smith and Jail Administrator Bob Patterson on the certification of the county jail by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.
It's the 26th consecutive year the county's jail system has been deemed in compliance with state standards - no small feat, according to county officials.
"We appreciate what you all do out there," County Judge Jon Burrows said.
The sheriff also extended praise, saying he was very proud of Patterson and the staff.
While the county used to receive notice from the state prior to jail inspections, that policy changed to "unannounced" visits a couple of years ago.
"We have to be ready all the time," Smith said.
The sheriff said the state inspects jails at least once a year, sometimes more.
He noted 640 different areas are included in the inspection, such as the staff's emergency response capabilities, as well as the facility's food service program, its sanitary plan, grievance system and staff/inmate ratios.
In some instances, minor malfunctions that can be corrected while the inspector is on-site aren't considered an infraction, he said.
Smith, who has served as sheriff for the past 27 years, said the county's consistency in jail certification is primarily the result of a staff that takes its job seriously and understands the regulations and standards.
"It doesn't happen accidentally," he said.
Overall, the county has the capacity to house 817 inmates. As of Tuesday, there were 720.
The sheriff explained that jails try to operate at 90 percent capacity. Anything over that percentage generally indicates new jail facilities should be constructed, according the Texas Commission on Jail standards.
Operating a jail is a sheriff's biggest responsibility, Smith said, noting it is the source of most liability, the most complaints and the most concerns.
He expressed appreciation for the community's continued support and for the jail staff who works to ensure the facility operates properly.
The Texas Legislature created the Commission on Jail Standards in 1975 to implement a declared state policy that all county jail facilities conform to minimum standards of construction, maintenance and operation.
The commission's role is to provide written rules and procedures establishing minimum standards, inspection procedures, enforcement policies and technical assistance for the construction, equipment, maintenance and operation of jail facilities under its jurisdiction.
Standards also pertain to the custody, care and treatment of inmates; as well as rehabilitation programs, education, and recreation for those confined in county and municipal jail facilities.
Also on Tuesday, the Commissioners Court took no action on the outdoor burn ban in the unincorporated areas of the county.
The burn ban was issued March 28 and is set to expire June 10.
County officials plan to revisit the issue weekly to determine whether the ban should be lifted or extended based on current information.
Contact Sonya Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7557.