As of May, the county jail held 4,365 inmates, 85 percent of its capacity, and was understaffed by about 300 detention officers as of July.
The lack of staff has sharply increased overtime staffing costs, eclipsing $12 million last year. At a Bexar County Commissioners Court budget meeting, County Judge Nelson Wolff blasted Sheriff Javier Salazar, saying, “We’ve been spending a hell of a lot of money on you, every year…63 percent of our budget is law enforcement.”
Over the past year, the Deputy Sheriffs Association of Bexar County (DSABC) has highlighted issues with the facility’s infrastructure.
DSABC recently posted a video on their website showing sewage overflowing from shower drains with the comment, “Despite claims from Bexar County Facilities Manager Dan Curry two weeks ago that there are no open maintenance work orders and that he has a ‘plan’ for improvements, this video footage is proof that deplorable conditions in the jail continue.”
Another video shows significant leaks in inmate living quarters.
Texas Public Radio uncovered that one man who was set to be released at the beginning of 2021 spent an extra five months than was legally required in the Bexar County jail.
Amid these criticisms, BCSO spent $50,000 to hire an independent consulting firm to conduct an audit of the jail. The analysis, which was reportedly expected earlier this year, was made public this week.
DSABC filed an open records request at the beginning of September to gain access to the “long-delayed” report, with union President Ron Tooke stating, “We’ve been told over and over that the audit would be released and discussed by the Bexar County Commissioners Court these past few weeks. But it still hasn’t been put on the agenda.”
According to the association, the report was drafted and available to the Bexar County Commissioners Court for some time but was not made public until after the $2.8 billion budget was adopted.
The report, conducted by correctional facility consulting firm Detain Inc., corroborates that the jail is suffering from a lack of staff.
“The Bexar County Jail faces significant detention officer staffing shortages along with significant mandatory overtime in critical inmate supervision roles,” it reads.
The firm recommends entry-level pay increases of 15 to 20 percent and further raises for more senior staff. It provides evidence that Bexar County correctional officer pay is far below all other major Texas counties.
The firm also recommends moving from a 40-hour work week to a 6-day, 48-hour work week to limit the chronic overtime paid to officers.
In addition to a 48-hour week, the report recommends, “Consider implementing a 12-hour shift schedule at the MAIN (or Annex) Facility. The number of staff required to operate a set number of posts is less when utilizing a 12-hour schedule versus a traditional 8-hour.”
Despite staffing concerns, the report does not paint an overall bleak picture of the facility.
“The Consultant’s overall conclusion regarding the BCSO Jail system is that it currently meets all statutory and regulatory requirements. This is supported by the April 2022 Texas Commission on Jail Standards inspection report,” it asserts.
“The results of this year’s Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) inspection is a considerable accomplishment considering the staffing and crowding challenges faced by the Agency over the last several years, and particularly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
As the report confirms, the jail passed its yearly inspection from the TJCS.
Regarding the results of the study, DSABC released a statement reading, “We regret that this document was not made public before the Commissioners Court budget vote, even though it had been drafted well before budget discussions. We are still awaiting the County’s report.”
“Regarding its contents, many of its findings confirm what we have been saying for years…The BCSO is the worst paid county law enforcement of any major Texas county.”
The commissioners court pursued their own independent audit of the jail around the same time as the BSCO, but the results have yet to be released.
A copy of the audit report can be found below.
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Hudson Callender is a reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of San Antonio, Texas. Hudson recently graduated cum laude from Trinity University with majors in Economics and Political Science, and loves to study ancient history. Hudson is also an avid mountaineer, backpacker, and paddler, often leading trips to remote wilderness areas. Outside of his love for nature, history, and Lone Star beer, Hudson spends his weekends arguing with his friends about football, and will always stick up for the Baylor Bears, Dallas Cowboys, and San Antonio Spurs.