Pokluda served as a Williamson County jail employee before retiring to join the Commission on Jail Standards. As I mentioned in a previous article, she was part of a team who wrote the training materials for mental health in the correction’s environment, traveling the state training corrections officers. Our administrative team for corrections are seasoned veterans and have instituted an environment of continuous improvement and training for all staff.
Those improvements are especially apparent in the care of the inmates. The Commissioners Court approved this November to fund a full-time physician’s assistant on the corrections staff. No longer are harsh techniques employed in the treatment of the inmates. An environment of compassion and personal respect has been modeled and established with strong emphasis on mental health improvements for all inmates. This time of year is especially harsh for many inmates. Their current movie list is heavy on heart-warming and spirit-lifting Christmas movies.
Additionally, there’s the impact of COVID-19 on the jail population. For nearly two years, Pokluda has essentially been operating two jails, isolating those testing positive for COVID-19. Both staff and inmates need to be protected. Her administration and procedures have effectively contained the virus within the jail. Additionally, our community paramedics team, under leadership of Amy Jarosek, come into the jail to vaccinate inmates against COVID-19 as they did to seniors in centers once vaccines became available in 2021.
However, administration alone cannot sustain a large jail to adhere to and meet jail standards. Our facilities department instituted staffing and procedures to maintain the building and equipment that are under constant wear, tear, and use. This jail is relatively old but no longer has that “feel.” Facilities converted a day-time position to nightshift with an office space and instituted maintenance and testing schedules and checklists for components in the jail.
Think about all the equipment required to meet the daily demands: heating/cooling/emergency power, equipment including large dishwashing systems, water softeners to protect the plumbing, industrial-size washers and driers, doors, automatic locks and card readers, alarm systems, lighting, intercoms, fire alarm systems – then there’s walls and floors needing constant attention. Through diligence and commitment, our facilities group has done much of the heavy lifting to bring and sustain our jail facility at the highest standards.
The Monday after Thanksgiving weekend brought that unannounced inspection to our jail. After the inspection, all the efforts above proved our jail is functioning at a level equal to its top peers. The passing inspection validated the collaborative work and success of the team approach to continuous improvement in the Williamson County Jail.