Sheriff trods along a bumpy road in stride


Editor’s Note: This week, Sheriff Oscar Carrillo gave the Advocate an interview and a tour of the jail facilities. The crux of the discussion centered around grants and how grants have both helped and hindered the sheriff’s office. Without injecting too much of an opinion, it would be clear to an objective spectator that problems exist between the sheriff’s office and elected county officials. Even with these personality clashes, Mr. Carrillo remains upbeat. He takes pride in what he feels he has accomplished during his term as sheriff.

The process for receiving grants is very competitive, said Mr. Carrillo. Once you’ve lost your place in line for grants, it’s difficult to get back into the loop. 

To secure a grant, and as part of the grant application, said Mr. Carrillo, commissioners must sign off on the grant via a resolution or a memorandum of understanding.  He said that in the past, it was a routine matter to go before commissioners’ court and get a grant endorsement, but he said things have changed.


A grant, he said, is akin to a credit line. Expenditures are made for a certain item within the parameters of the grant and the grant provider generally reimburses the county within 30 days. In most cases, the reimbursements are made within a 30-day time frame, but the issue gets thorny when expenditure is not reimbursed within the 30-day period. 


Things went from bad to worse when the state mandated that all counties have a 90-percent clearance rate on the disposition of criminal cases. On Dec. 11, 2011, Christopher Burnett, Criminal Justice Division (CJD) Executive Director wrote a memo to the CJD with the subject line, “Important Changes in Eligibility Requirements for Future Grants.”


The memo reads as follows:

While most counties have made great strides over the last few years in reporting criminal history dispositions as required by Code of Criminal Procedure, Chapter 60, to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), the State Auditor’s September 2011 audit of the reporting requirement system shows that more needs to be done.  To assist this effort, the Criminal Justice Division (CJD) is taking the following steps:


Effective September 1, 2012, each county must comply with Chapter 60 reporting requirements in order for the county or any political subdivision within that county to be eligible for grants under CJD’s Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program.  This means that by August 1, 2012, each county and any political subdivision within that county that has applied to CJD for JAG grants must provide CJD with a criminal history disposition completeness report documenting that it has reached a 90% disposition completeness rate for adult arrests for calendar years 2006-2010, as measured by DPS.  All jurisdictions, such as cities, in a non-compliant county will be ineligible for JAG funds regardless of whether the county itself applied to CJD for JAG.


Effective September 1, 2013, any entity, public or private, in a county that does not report at 90% or above will be ineligible to receive grants from any state or federal fund sources managed by CJD.  


CJD will discuss possible grant funding to help counties get into compliance.  


Criminal histories must be reported correctly and promptly to DPS as required by Chapter 60.  Many public and private employers use criminal histories as part of the review process when hiring persons for sensitive positions.  Texas and national law enforcement officers need complete criminal histories during traffic stops or during other contacts.  Also, this information is vital for judges to make proper decisions regarding magistration and sentencing.  For these reasons, the Texas Legislature has stressed the need for timely and complete information and has established timelines for counties to achieve average compliance reporting at 90% or above. 

I urge you to pay close attention to how these reporting requirements may affect your entire county’s eligibility to receive future grants from CJD.  Please contact Judy Switzer for CJD and JAG questions. 


If you have technical questions regarding the Chapter 60 data reporting requirements, please contact Angie Kendall at the Texas Department of Public Safety at [email protected].  


Christopher Burnett 
Executive Director 

Criminal Justice Division


When this memo was written, the memo also included the disposition rates for all Texas counties. Culberson County’s district court disposition rate was at 28 percent.

“Our deadline came for renewal or extension of grants, and guess what, those were denied,” said Mr. Carrillo. “The frustrating part of all this was that this was something that I couldn’t control because our district clerk decided she wasn’t going to do it. So, my funding went out the window, meaning we were ineligible for any grants until we met the 90-percent disposition rate clearance rate.”


The good news is that the county has finally reached the state-mandated 90-percent rate.  “It knocked our office off the distribution list for grants because of the failure to comply with the law. It put the entire county at risk of grants, and I was the first hit because I was the one with the active grants.”


Mr. Carrillo said that grants have come to an abrupt halt. These grants would have funded overtime and fuel costs for “program income,” that is, revenue that is produced through the issuance of citations.


“That was another revenue stream that was coming into the county at zero cost to the taxpayer,” said Mr. Carrillo. He said fuel, equipment and officers’ time was reimbursed at 100 percent. “Yet, the program income went [to the general fund]  instead of us allowing us to have it.”


As it stands today, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) writes the majority of citations issued on I-10, Hwy. 90 and Hwy. 54. Although part of the revenue from citations does come back to the county through the Justice of the Peace Precinct 1 office, Constable Bruce Jackson said that the state’s mandatory court cost is now set at $100, and the $100 is automatically paid to the state.


Mr. Carrillo said that his office no longer has deputies patrolling Interstate 10 because of the loss of grants that would have paid for salaries, equipment, wear and tear on vehicles and fuel costs.


As for county jail, the sheriff is proud of the improvements that he has overseen during his tenure, but he readily points out deficiencies that he said he cannot address without help from the general fund. He pointed to a sparkling clean kitchen that has a fire protecting system that he obtained as well as a lockable glass case for all utensils. The jail administrator’s office is a small and narrow room in the booking area with a yellow vinyl chair that likely dates back to the 1950s. He was also quick to note that the jail floor is in dire need of paint removal so that a colored sealant could be applied to prevent painting the floor every year.


The tour of the 17-bed jail included visiting jail cells, the laundry room that also houses a well-stocked freezer. Also, when a person is arrested, the person is immediately fingerprinted on a new system that is connected to the state’s database.

The machine also takes a mug shot of the offender. Culberson County has the smallest jail facility in the surrounding area, said Mr. Carrillo. Hudspeth County Jail has a 125-bed facility and Brewster County has a 74-bed jail. According to the sheriff, ideally, Culberson County should have a 72-bed jail, but he said that he would have little incentive to pursue such a zealous goal because of the politics.

“I was burned twice when we brought inmates from other counties to our jail and we produced revenue that we thought we would be able to keep our own revenue,” said Mr. Carrillo. “Although I was given assurances that we would be able to carry over that income for the next budget year, I was told we couldn’t. I won’t get burned again. The same thing with my request for two new deputies. I was promised two, and in the end, I received one.”


The dispatch center can be found a few yards away from the jail facility. The office houses numerous computers, but it primarily serves as the 911 emergency center that can locate the caller’s address immediately.  Mr. Carrillo said that because of staffing issues, a dispatcher out of necessity must also sometimes serve as a jailer during certain times of the week, and that could create a dangerous situation if a 911 call comes in during the time the dispatcher is at the jail.


“We do the best we can with what he have. This is always the way it’s been, and I will continue to fight for what I believe in because I care about the citizens of Van Horn and the taxpayers of Culberson County.”



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