For this weekly feature, the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD) profiles a noteworthy bill that is currently going through the legislative process. The bill may relate directly to TCDD’s Public Policy Priorities or another disability-related issue.
Bill: House Bill (HB) 2831, relating to the confinement in county jails of persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD).
Bill Author: Rep. James White, Texas House District 19 (Lumberton)
Coauthor: Rep. David Spiller, Texas House District 68 (Gainesville)
What does the bill do?
As passed out of committee, HB 2831 would establish a permanent advisory committee to advise the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) and make recommendations in relation to the confinement of people with IDD in county jails. The 13-member advisory committee would be appointed by the presiding officer of TCJS and consist of:
- One representative of TCJS
- One representative of the Texas Department of State Health Services
- One representative of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission with expertise in IDD
- One representative of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement
- One representative of the Texas Correctional Office on Offenders with Medical or Mental Impairments
- One sheriff of a county with a population of 80,000 or more
- One sheriff of a county with a population of less than 80,000
- Two representatives of statewide organizations that advocate for individuals with IDD
- One representative who is a mental health professional with a focus on trauma and IDD
- One representative from a state-supported living center
- One representative with IDD or who is a family member of an individual with IDD
- One member who represents the public
Under the terms of the bill, members of the advisory committee shall serve staggered six-year terms, with the terms of either four or five members expiring Jan. 31 of each odd-numbered year. If a vacancy occurs during a member’s term, the presiding officer of TCJS may appoint a replacement to fill the unexpired term. Additionally, the presiding officer shall designate one member of the advisory committee to serve as chair of the committee for a two-year term.
The advisory committee will gather and review data regarding the confinement of people with IDD in county jails and provide recommendations and guidelines to sheriffs and counties regarding that confinement.
By Dec. 1 of each even-numbered year, the advisory committee shall submit a report that includes recommendations for legislative or other action related to the confinement of persons with IDD in county jails. This report will be sent to:
- The governor
- The lieutenant governor
- The speaker of the House of Representatives
- Each standing committee of the Legislature with primary jurisdiction over the commission
HB 2831 also directs TCJS, with the assistance of the advisory committee, to monitor the intake processes of county jails and assess their ability to properly identify people with IDD, and to help county jails improve those intake processes. A report would then be prepared and submitted no later than Dec. 1, 2022, to the executive and legislative entities cited above as well as to each sheriff. The report should include a discussion on any deficiencies in the intake process and recommendations to improve county jail practices regarding the identification of persons with IDD.
Lastly, the bill requires TCJS and the Commission on Jail Standards, with assistance from the advisory committee, to jointly develop a training program for county jailers that consists of at least four hours of education and training. This training will include instruction on interacting with a person with IDD who is confined in a county jail, as well as techniques to assess a person for IDD. County jailers who complete the training would be able to count these hours toward their continuing education requirements.
If passed, the bill requires the members of the advisory committee to be appointed by no later than Jan. 1, 2022.
During the 86th regular session, White authored and passed into law HB 3116, which established a temporary task force to conduct a comprehensive study on best practice standards for the detention of persons with IDD. The task force’s final report can be found here (PDF, 498 pages, 9.81 MB). In addition to creating a permanent advisory body, HB 2831 would implement some of the task force’s recommendations.
Statement from bill author, Rep. James White:
“Our state must value all Texans’
constitutional rights, especially when
they intersect with the criminal j
Where is the bill in the process?
On April 15, 2021, HB 2831 received a public hearing before the House Committee on County Affairs. You can watch the discussion on the bill here, beginning at the 1:53:48 mark.
HB 2831 was reported favorably by the committee on April 20, on a vote of 8-0. The bill now moves to the Local & Consent Calendars Committee, where it will await scheduling for consideration by the full Texas House.
Who supports the bill and why?
- CTD: Jennifer Toon, speaking in her role as the mental health and peer policy fellow of the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities (CTD): “People with IDD represent roughly 10% of the jail population, despite the fact that they only represent about 3% of the total U.S. population. Despite the overrepresentation … law enforcement lack training about IDD, and this not only prevents these individuals from getting the services they need, but it also causes unintended consequences such as unnecessary uses of force. Sometimes, officers don’t understand the difference between a manifestation of a disability, such as autism, or a willful disregard of a direct order.”
- The Arc of Texas: Alex Cogan, speaking in her role as manager of advocacy and public policy at the Arc of Texas: “We’re glad to see the permanent advisory committee in this bill. It brings together stakeholders to provide recommendations. People with IDD are overrepresented in our county jails. … This is for a whole host of reasons, some of which are their unique characteristics that make them susceptible to being taken advantage of and unintentionally giving misunderstood responses, which we know can lead to increased arrest and incarceration. These compounding conditions make it quite a challenge for people with IDD to receive the appropriate support and services while incarcerated. … This bill takes a solid step to make sure that people with IDD receive the same access to justice as those without.”
The following groups also registered their support for the legislation but provided no testimony: Disability Rights Texas, the Texas Council of Community Centers, the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Texas, the Statewide Leadership Council, the Texas Psychological Association, and United Ways of Texas.
Who opposes the bill and why?
No opposition to the bill was registered at the April 15 public hearing.
- TCJS: Brandon Wood, speaking on behalf of TCJS, provided remarks on the bill: “We realized very early on that we were not subject matter experts in this area, so we reached out to those who were. It is my intent to roll out a test form of those approved questions (in the intake screening form that would identify persons with IDD). … I can assure you that even if this bill does not pass, we will continue to do that.”
- TCDD: Linda Logan, senior public policy analyst at TCDD, provided written comments on the bill, stating its consistency with the mission of TCDD but noting that improvements can be made to increase its effectiveness. She recommends that the advisory committee include at least one person with IDD or a family member (Note: This change was made to the bill prior to its passage out of committee.) Additionally, she recommends the committee help identify data needs and barriers in communication between jails and other systems. Finally, a recommendation is provided to make the bill’s optional training mandatory and include a required evaluation by students to assess and improve the curriculum.
How much will the bill cost?
The Legislative Budget Board determined the bill would not increase the state budget in a significant way.
Is there a Senate companion to the bill?
There is no Senate companion to HB 2831.
White has filed three additional bills that each tackle an individual component of HB 2831:
- HB 2443 would direct TCJS to conduct a two-year study on the intake processes with respect to people with IDD in county jails.
- HB 2444 would establish a permanent advisory committee on the confinement of individuals with IDD.
- HB 2475 would establish a training program related to county jailer interactions with individuals with IDD.
Each of the bills has been referred to the House County Affairs Committee, though none have received a public hearing.
For the latest information about where HB 2831 is in the process, follow the bill on the Texas Legislature Online. To receive future legislative updates from TCDD, subscribe to TCDD eNews or follow us on Twitter.
Bill of the Week Updates:
HB 119, which would prohibit organ transplant recipient discrimination based on a person’s disability, received a public hearing before the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services on April 21, 2021.
HB 843, which is identical to Bill of the Week: HB 908, was passed out of the House Insurance Committee. It now heads to the Calendars Committee to await scheduling for consideration by the full Texas House.