What Does Failure to Comply With Jail Standards and Jail Policy Lead to?
Jeff Kovar, Strategic Account Executive, has noticed a somewhat common theme when discussing tracking products with jail or prison agencies: ''We aren’t required by law to follow any state standards, so we don’t need to be concerned about our cell checks.” Let’s examine that statement a little more closely.
Are you prepared for legal defensibility?
Jail standards vary from state to state, some states don’t even follow any jail standards at all. If you operate in one of the states that aren’t required by law to follow minimum standards, have you grasped that it doesn't mean your facility doesn’t face liability? If you think your current process is what works best for your facility, by all means, carry on but be aware of the repercussions that will take place if an incident were to happen, such as an in-custody death. Your facility will be investigated (subsequently litigated) and will be required to provide written statements and documentation from staff involved, video footage (if available), inmate medical records, and intake screening documentation. Are you confident that this information is being documented appropriately? Are you able to audit this documentation to ensure its accuracy and completeness? Do you have these items available at the drop of a hat? If not, it’s time to rethink your agency policy and prepare for legal defensibility.
Policy sets benchmarks that benefit facility functionality
For example, Texas has minimum jail standards that all county jails in the state are required to follow. They are inspected annually by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. Therefore, Texas jails must follow TCJS guidelines or face the risk of getting shut down. On the other hand, there are some states that don’t have statewide standards. These facilities’ Jail Administrators aren’t concerned with their officers' jail check compliance since they are not inspected by an outside entity. However, even though these facilities aren’t mandated to follow state standards, they still need to have internal standards for cell checks written into their policy, such as 30-minute or 60-minute checks. Failure to comply could result in litigation if there were an in-custody death.
Although it may sound more convenient to not be bound to any state standards, at least having internal written policy sets benchmarks for staff that benefit the facility's functionality. In most agency policies, administrators set time requirements for cell checks in specific areas. For example, staff may be required by policy to make 60-minute cell checks in general population housing units, 30-minute cell checks in mental health housing units, and 15-minute checks for inmates on suicide watch. If staff are late with their cell checks, according to the agency policy, they could be subject to litigation. These policies require officers to follow what is determined to be their standard. If policies aren’t being followed, at the very least, the facility will be scrutinized, and all deficiencies will be used to paint a picture of widespread carelessness. Think about how it would look if you have multiple in-custody deaths and preventative measures were put in place to prevent future occurrences. Attorneys always look at what corrective actions are taken following a serious incident. If there were deficiencies with the cell checks on the first in-custody death and those same deficiencies are present during the second in-custody death it will appear that the agency has a pattern of practicing negligent behavior. If this scenario sounds like a possibility in your facility, you need to take immediate action to improve your team’s practices.
How can I prevent facing liability?
There isn’t a magic wand that will prevent every single brawl or in-custody death. Luckily, inmate tracking technology can help facilities mitigate risk and increase staff accountability by documenting jail rounds and translating it into usable, easy-to-read, compliance reports. Whether you want to know which officers are late, the location of the late rounds, or the time of day they occurred, with a few clicks of a button, administrators can pull this information while staff are simultaneously taught the tools of high awareness, check compliance, and defensibility.