Petition Demanding Transparency and Accountability from TX Commission on Jail Standards

Executive Director Brandon Wood and the Texas Commission on Jail Standards

The Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) is the only regulatory body over 242 county jails. TCJS does not post video of its public meetings online, and they are often failing to provide virtual access to public meetings.

The Commission is failing to provide proper adequate public access to their meetings in Austin which are not only not accessible for virtual participation but sometimes are not livestreamed or recorded. Not only is public access mandated by state law, it is vital for the Commission to hear what system impacted people and their families have to say about jail conditions and culture, and for us to be able to deliver comments and complaints regarding jail conditions and culture that impact over 75,000 people who are detained in our county jails.

This lack of transparency is a violation of State Law, and a slap in the face of the Commission's constituents, majority of whom are pretrial which means legally innocent.

Please sign this petition to tell TCJS to follow mandatory State law on open meetings.

Your voice is essential for advancing pretrial justice!

Sponsored by
Cypress, TX

To: Executive Director Brandon Wood and the Texas Commission on Jail Standards
From: [Your Name]

Executive Director Brandon Wood
Deputy Director Ricky Armstrong
Assistant Director Jason Ross
Open Records Research Specialist Will Turner

Re: Access to Texas Commission on Jail Standards Quarterly Meetings

Director Wood and Commission,

In February 2022, Texas Jail Project along with several other community organizations and advocates sent this commission a letter which served as a formal complaint regarding the Commission’s failure to provide virtual public participation in its meetings and its failure to provide a virtual option for the meeting at all. We are dismayed that we are forced to file a new complaint regarding the lack of access to these meetings.

We remain troubled that the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) website continues to list inaccurate information regarding the public’s ability to virtually access the commission’s quarterly meetings.

Just as was the case in our February 2022 complaint, the TCJS website stated the November 2023 meeting would be available virtually at 9:00am. However, once again, no such link was available and the meeting commenced with the public left in the dark. The Commission made no effort to correct this error and instead continued to meet. Today, a quick check of the Capitol Events Archive will show that no November 2023 Texas Commission on Jail Standards meeting was recorded.

Just minutes after the in-person public comment period ended, the families of three young people who died in Harris County Jail arrived deeply upset that they had missed their opportunity to address the Commission. These comments no doubt would have spoken directly to the dire issues rampant within the Harris County Jail–a jail that remains out of compliance with jail standards. We can think of no clearer story to highlight the deep harm this lack of public access causes.

The Commission has previously provided county sheriffs and commissioners the opportunity to provide virtual testimony. We expect the TCJS to ensure the public has equitable access to all future TCJS meetings in alignment with the same access and accommodations that have been made available to them. We look forward to seeing concrete change in the next meeting scheduled to take place over WebEx to ensure there is an option for people to participate virtually.

The Commission’s failure to use appropriate technological solutions or otherwise ensure that the public is able to interact with the Commission on the Internet is a violation of Sec. 511.0061 of the Texas Gov't Code. This letter acts as a formal complaint against the actions of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.

*Sec. 511.006. MEETINGS; RULES.
(a) The commission shall hold a regular meeting each calendar quarter and may hold special meetings at the call of the presiding officer or on the written request of three members. If the presiding officer is absent, the assistant presiding officer shall preside at a meeting.
(b) The commission shall adopt, amend, and rescind rules for the conduct of its proceedings.
(c) The commission shall develop and implement policies that provide the public with a reasonable opportunity to appear before the commission and to speak on any issue under the jurisdiction of the commission.

Added by Acts 1989, 71st Leg., ch. 212, Sec. 2.01, eff. Sept. 1, 1989. Amended by Acts 1991, 72nd Leg., ch. 740, Sec. 6, eff. Sept. 1, 1991.

Sec. 511.0061. USE OF TECHNOLOGY.
The commission shall implement a policy requiring the commission to use appropriate technological solutions to improve the commission's ability to perform its functions. The policy must ensure that the public is able to interact with the commission on the Internet.