Brazos County Sheriff Chris Kirk officially unveiled the Brazos County Detention Center at a grand opening ceremony on Tuesday evening, September 7, 2010. When he assumed office in 1997, Sheriff Kirk saw the future need for additional jail space as our county has continued to grow. In 2007, with help from County Officials, we began planning for the new detention center. Ground was broken in January 2009 and about twenty months later construction was complete on the new $55 million facility. Designed to house 685 inmates, the new medium/maximum security expansion is approximately 139,000 square feet; most of that space is dedicated to housing inmates. Combined with our existing facility, located at the same site, the Brazos County Detention Center can now house up to 1,087 inmates and has a little more than 200,000 square feet.
The new facility consists of eight, 64 person dorms. Operations are assisted with state of the art technology for enhanced performance. The Special Housing Unit or “SHU” was designed for inmate orientation, inmates with medical and mental health special needs, as well as administrative segregation. The SHU has a total of 173 beds. The new expansion enabled us to combine two facilities into one location. All detainees from the “Courthouse” jail were transferred into the new facility. During the research and planning phase, great attention was given to trends of both the county resident population and state wide incarceration rates, in hopes of building a facility that would carry us through the upcoming years. A needs assessment and analysis was commissioned to collect historical data that was used to project future incarceration needs. With research in hand and a jail that was severely overcrowded, a request was brought to the voters of Brazos County who approved the $55 million bond.A Transition Team was designated to assist the jail administration in overseeing the project for the next few years. Up to that point, all work had been done by a voluntary group on an overtime basis. These dedicated officers came from all areas of the Brazos County Sheriff’s Office. The ground breaking in January 2009 was preceded by building a new recreation yard and the demolition of an old one. The annex, built in 1994 to accommodate TDCJ inmates, was torn down, followed by land clearing and leveling. The first section of the jail built was the special housing unit, followed by the administrative intake and release section. The general housing pods followed, and lastly, the new facility was connected to the existing jail.Research, development, and training continued throughout the construction phase. On February 26, 2009, the Transition Team, along with several detention officers, from both the Downtown and Detention Center facilities had the opportunity to tour the Fort Bend County Jail. Fort Bend County was at the end of their jail expansion project. Like Brazos County, Fort Bend County had employed Rosser International and Turner Construction as the architect and construction companies in their expansion project. The facility designs of both Fort Bend County and Brazos County expansion projects are very similar. This experience was invaluable to the transition team as we were able to identify products specified in our project, as well as take into account some design and functional issues that would impact our project. Lieutenant Pressler and Lieutenant Quam of Fort Bend County were extremely helpful in answering questions regarding their expansion project and processes.The Brazos County Detention Center is modeled after “direct supervision” jails, where staff work more closely with inmates and inmate movement is kept to a minimum. The idea of “Inmate Behavior Management” has become an integral part of our daily operations. The direct supervision of inmates affords greater interaction between the staff and inmates. The result is greater security and lower operational costs.In March 2009, Wayne Dicky, Lieutenant David Drosche, Jerry Barratt, Lieutenant Reginald Walker, Sergeant Belinda Smith, Sergeant Sheldon Smith, and Sergeant Javier Rodriguez attended a training program on implementing Inmate Behavior Management, hosted by the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) in Colorado. The National Institute of Corrections has selected the Brazos County Detention Center as a test facility for their studies on the effects of inmate behavior management. The Inmate Behavior Management (IBM) program is designed to improve behavior of inmates in correctional facilities through six essential elements.
- Assessing the risks and needs of each inmate at various points during his or her detention.
- Assigning inmates to housing
- Meeting inmates basic needs
- Defining and conveying expectations for inmate behavior.
- Supervising inmates
- Keeping inmates occupied with productive activities.
The Brazos County Detention Center is one of four facilities throughout the United States that was selected to participate in a study of the IBM program. NIC was provided with various statistics of facility operations prior to the implementation of the IBM program. Over the next two years, the same statistics were collected to measure the effectiveness of the program on inmate behavior as well as the impact on the officers. Upon completion of the training in Colorado, the preparation for implementation of IBM in the Brazos County Detention Center was in full swing. A series of training courses was offered such as; the IBM course, Interpersonal Communication, Supervision of Inmates in a Direct Supervision Facility, Inmate Needs & Expectations, and Classification. All staff members attended these IBM training courses prior to the opening of the new facility. In May 2009, the Transition Team was sent to Collin County for Direct Supervision Training. Each member of the Transition Team spent three days in various Collin County Detention Center dormitories. We were paired with a training officer on each shift and had the opportunity to observe how Collin County operates their direct supervision dormitories. The emphasis on communication in all areas of operation was expressed, as open dormitories have a designated bunk area and there is no barrier between the bunk area and dayroom.
strong>Brazos County Low Risk Facility
In August 2009, the county acquired property located next to the detention center. Plans were implemented to build a “Low Risk Facility,” (LRF) that was designed to house 128 inmates with minimum classification that would continue to add relief to our ever expanding overcrowding problem. As the LRF is a direct supervision operation, it afforded a unique opportunity to implement direct supervision training for staff members prior to the completion of new facility. Construction of the LRF was completed in February 2010, and we began housing inmates in March 2010. The LRF added much needed beds to the jail capacity and allowed us to end the off site inmate housing.
In January 2010, Transition Team members visited Lubbock County to work with their Transition Team. With an emphasis on communication, policy enforcement, staff training and daily operations, Sheriff Kelly Rowe and Lieutenant Rogers shared valuable information that helped us formulate our version of Officer Facility Familiarization training that we provided to the Brazos County staff prior to our grand opening. In the month prior to opening the new facility, staff members attended a two day course designed to familiarize them with the new surroundings and were given packets of information that included site maps, post orders and assignments, implementation of a new “master schedule,” fire drills and equipment locations, new touch screen door controls, new video visitation system, and new policy that encompassed direct supervision methods. Upon opening, daily shift briefings were initiated to create better lines of communication and provide an avenue for daily training. Through these lines of communication, modifications in daily operations and policy can be better conveyed and implemented more quickly and effectively.Every year, nearly 12,000 people are booked into the Brazos County Detention Center. This expansion is expected to provide detention services for an estimated county population up to 218,000.