DMN Editorial: Dallas Jail-More of the Same
Just Another Failure
06:42 AM CDT on Friday, April 6, 2007
At the risk of sounding just a little older than dirt, we do recall those days when Dallas County failing a state jail inspection was a big deal.
Page One, maybe. At least the top of the Metro section.
Not anymore. In April 2007, a failing grade from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards rated only the third page of Wednesday’s Metro, squeezed among a suspected burglar shot to death, a marijuana bust in Denton County and the rest of the run-of-the-mill crime.
A follow-up story Thursday got better play, but what else is there to say for a fourth consecutive failure that we didn’t say for the previous three? One benchmark for “big news” is “something out of the ordinary.” Failing to meet state jail standards no longer qualifies in this town.
It was “Sheriff” John Wiley Price – not to be confused with the elected sheriff, Lupe “0-for-3” Valdez – who expressed some surprise at the rigor of this state inspection.
“They did everything except crawl through the air ducts,” said Mr. Price, who serves as county commissioner in his spare time.
Yet the jail commission did offer some warning in February, when it summoned Dallas County officials to Austin for a status update and gave them three months to meet minimum staffing requirements.
Dallas County has the nation’s seventh-largest jail system and the highest incarceration rate among urban counties. Officials pledged to shave 1,000 inmates from the system in 30 days and got about 70 percent of the way there, which they say largely brings them into compliance.
Unfortunately, the jail commission’s executive director says his inspectors tell him the Dallas County system is “not any better than it was before,” and he wants county officials back in Austin in May to explain themselves.
Time was that might be big news. Not anymore.