Dallas County Jail Officials Hope New Contract Will Improve Performance

DALLAS — After spending a week at the Dallas County Jail in February, U.S. Justice Department investigators had negative feedback for local officials — just the latest of a string of damaging outside reviews for the jail.

Among investigators’ concerns were serious lapses in medical care for inmates and numerous sanitation problems.

After previous citations, the Sheriff’s Department is already addressing concerns over jail sanitation, beginning with cleaning shower drains and making plans to purchase warmer blankets — inmates had been blocking air vents to keep warm.

Justice Department officials returned for inspections again in March, as did officials from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. Annual inspections from the state commission have brought failing grades in each of the past two years.

Officials believe that with Parkland Memorial Hospital now overseeing health care in the facility, some of the concerns of county and federal officials will be addressed.

The University of Texas Medical Branch previously provided health services for county jails. UTMB officials claimed more than a year ago that funding and staffing issues were to blame for problems in the jail.

In 2005, a report on health care at the jail by several medical experts called for vast changes to the system, including recommendations for construction of a 120-bed medical facility for inmates with chronic ailments, wounds and fractures that need special attention.

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