State issues rare order: Shutdown of Frio County Jail

Frio County plans appeal and needed changes

PEARSALL, Texas – For only the third time since 1999, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards has issued a remedial order shutting down a county jail.

The board took the rare move involving the Frio County Jail in Pearsall during its meeting in Austin Thursday.

Brandon Wood, the commission's executive director, said the Frio County facility is considered a lock-up, not a traditional jail since it does not provide medical screening or other services required by law.

Wood said being a lock-up, Frio County exceeded the 72-hour limit in which inmates can be held before posting bond or being transferred to elsewhere.

Joseph Sindon, the legal counsel for the Frio County Commissioners Court, said normally, prisoners would be taken to Zavala County.

Sindon said the problem has been the jail there is often at or near capacity.

"Their ability to meet all our needs for all of our inmates had been diminished," Sindon said.

He said as a result, Frio County was left without another facility for its inmates.

Sindon said once the commissioners get written notification of the remedial order and its timeline, the county can appeal allowing the jail to remain open.

He said that also would give the county time to make the needed changes ahead of the November meeting of Jail Standards Commission.

"They're going to see that Frio County takes these issues, and we share their concerns," Sindon said.

Wood said, "We'll probably seek to have reassurances that they have plenty of contractors in place to be able to transport anybody that they arrest."

Sindon said that's why the commissioners court on Monday is expected to approve contracts with Bandera and Live Oak counties, in addition to its agreement with Zavala County.

He said the commissioners plan to develop a master list of jail facilities.

Sindon said it would be "an extra layer of protection to make sure this kind of thing does not happen again."

He also said Frio County plans to hire a private contractor this fall to run a full-time jail facility. He said that would help create more jobs.

The Sheriff's Office took over its operation after the GEO Group left a few years ago.

Sindon said they also want to avoid any layoffs of current jail employees.