Smith County Jail study finds ‘dramatic’ increase in turnover, overtime, inmate population

Sheriff presents findings to commissioners court
Smith County Jail study finds ‘dramatic’ increase in turnover, overtime, inmate population
Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 7:58 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - A study of the Smith County Jail reveals a dramatic rise in employee turnover, excessive amounts of overtime, and an escalating inmate population. Most of the findings in a consulting group’s review of the jail came as no surprise to Sheriff Larry Smith.

“I had a little concern in waiting for this staffing study to come back,” said Smith. “But the study came back and at least 85 to 90% is what I’ve been saying in this court for the last 10 years. They proved it.”

The consultants were brought in last year under the direction of former Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran. Among the problems consultants found: an increasing jail population with no signs of slowing down. They recommended conducting an assessment to see if more inmates could be released from jail while awaiting trial.

Smith County Jail Study: Total Inmate Population
Smith County Jail Study: Total Inmate Population(Sarah Thomas/KLTV)

When it comes to staffing, consultants found a “dramatic” rise in staff vacancies and turnover.

“These people, they can’t take holiday or vacation when they want to, like we can. They can’t go. They can take sick leave. And a lot of times unfortunately, we have employees that say they’re sick, because that’s the only way you can get off,” Smith said.

Staffing problems have also resulted in an excessive amount of overtime, according to the study.

Smith County Jail Study: Overtime Pay
Smith County Jail Study: Overtime Pay(Sarah Thomas/KLTV)

In total, consultants offered 36 recommendations. And while the sheriff doesn’t agree with all of them, county commissioners want all of the proposals explored. Among the recommendations: an $80K staffing analysis looking at the relief factor for jailers.

“It costs money to do things right,” said Pct. 2 Commissioner John Moore. “And it costs money to do things wrong. So, let’s do it right.”

The study also recommends stability in leadership and points out the fact that the jail has had four different chief deputies and seven captains in the last nine years. The review was funded using commissary funds, not taxpayer money, according to Sheriff Smith.