Third party consultant to address Bexar County Jail staffing problems

Excessive overtime, turnover still problems at jail

Author: Myra Arthur, Reporter, Anchor, marthur@ksat.com
Published On: Aug 20 2012 06:36:06 PM CDT   Updated On: Aug 20 2012 05:04:25 PM CDT
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SAN ANTONIO -

Bexar County Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz announced Monday that he would like a third party consultant to review the staffing problems plaguing the County Detention Center.

The jail has been battling large turnover, high overtime pay and excessively long shifts for nearly a year. Ortiz said many officers are quitting their jobs because of the relentless overtime.

"They don't see a light at the end of the tunnel," Ortiz said. "Instead of trying to assist us, the county is making it tougher and tougher for us to operate the jail in a responsible way."

The staffing problem also creates a safety issue, according to Ortiz.

In late May, an inmate simply walked out of the Bexar County jail. He was later caught. Then in early August, another inmate escaped his cell and sent officers on a chase throughout the jail before he was caught.

There are currently 3,719 inmates housed in the jail. But sheriff's officials said there are only enough officers to supervise 2,382 inmates. There are 674 officers working mandatory overtime to make up the difference.

The Sheriff's Department shelled out $152,831 in overtime pay from June 1-16.

The Texas Department of Jail Standards said the Bexar County Jail faces a unique challenge: handling 800-900 different gang affiliations whose members cannot be intermingled in the jail.

"It still doesn't change the fact that we have 900 empty beds," said Bexar County Manager David Smith. "The taxpayer shouldn't pay to guard 900 empty beds."

Smith said he agrees to bring in a third party consultant to address the ongoing issues at the jail, but adds that the county, as well as the Sheriff's Department, should have a say on which consultant is chosen.

Susan Pamerleau, who is running against Ortiz for sheriff in November, said she believes the staffing solution comes down to being proactive.

"There's a necessity for planning ahead, not just waiting until something happens where you have to react," Pamerleau said.

To view a list of recent stories Myra Arthur has done, click here.