Anyone who thought that the Department of Justice's investigation of the Dallas County Jail would be a whitewash is sorely mistaken. This morning, at an otherwise uneventful Dallas County commissioner's court subcommittee hearing, budget director Ryan Brown was talking about how the county is almost tapped out on various technology projects. And the county needs to save money, he says, because of the changes it will be forced to implement due to the DOJ investigation of the jail. "The things that will be coming through will be amazing," he said, more or less in passing.
After the DOJ investigation was announced last November, county leaders claimed that that outside scrutiny would only validate the reforms they've implemented at the jail during the last year. But after the facility failed its third straight state inspection last month, there were rumblings among county officials that the DOJ is not playing around.
I'm hearing mixed reports on whether the department will actually file a federal lawsuit against the county, but at the very least it's likely that the feds will submit a laundry list of recommendations how to fix the place once and for all. Expect those recommendations to cover everything from medical care to electronic records to sanitation. And while the feds are likely to focus most of their attention on the jail's former medical provider, don't expect Sheriff Lupe Valdez to escape their scrutiny.
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After Brown's comment about the "amazing" changes that the DOJ investigaton is likely to usher, one woman was heard to mutter, "That's not good." Well, it is, and it isn't. The problems at the jail, which range from abysmal medical and mental health care to apathy among too many guards, have lingered for decades, and it's time something was done about it. More a paper-shuffler than a take-charge leader, Valdez has yet to make a dent in the problem, and even with Parkland coming on board as the new medical provider, the DOJ wants concrete changes on how the county plans to treat people behind bars. Nobody expects the county jail to be the Wyndham Anatole, but it shouldn't be a place that ignores sick inmates until they're on the brink of death. Right? --Matt Pulle