In the Bexar County Jail, the Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) is always at the ready if violence erupts, the KSAT 12 Defenders learned.
The team of volunteer detention officers goes through rigorous training to be prepared to handle such violence.
In one recent incident, an inmate lashed out at the jail and SERT launched into action to contain the prisoner. The incident took several minutes to handle because the inmate continued to resist.
SERT members regularly face threats of violence and there is no extra pay.
Carlos Lopez said he signed up for the excitement. “To me it's the most exciting part of the jail," Lopez said. "You're in the action, first responder to every emergency and it's something different every day."
Roxanne Mathai is one of the few female members of SERT. She said she always knew this type of job was for her.
"This is always something I've wanted to do since I was a little girl. I just thought this was crazy fun and amazing,” Mathai said. “I actually enjoy it. I enjoy being part of the team and part of the whole experience.”
Part of the training for SERT members includes being sprayed with pepper spray and shot with a Taser.
The pepper spray exercise involved trainees struggling to survive an attack, getting a dose of pepper spray in their eyes and performing a series of exercises prior to engaging a prisoner and putting her in restraints.
"Think about what you're doing,” an instructor told one trainee as the trainee was restraining the person playing the role of prisoner. “There you go. Good job, good job."
After passing this part of the training it was Mathai who volunteered to play the role of restrained prisoner. She also remembered a recent incident with a female inmate in the jail that became ugly.
“She had tried to commit suicide and she was really upset that we had saved her and she was fighting with us,” Mathai said.
In the Taser part of the training, trainees are shot with the electric shock device and are lowered to a mat by their colleagues as they absorb the shock.
This too is designed to show the trainees the weapons at their disposal and allow them to understand what it feels like when they are used on prisoners.
"It's a good thing,” Lopez said. “It's a good process that we go through and the reason we do that is so we know the tools that we have do work.
Bexar County Jail Chief Raul Banasco, who supervises SERT, said team members are on duty 24/7 and that the team sees a lot of action.
“When you're talking 4,563 inmates, that's a lot of human beings and a lot of potential incidents that could occur,” Banasco said. “One of the things about being on the SERT team is they're passionate."
When all the training is done there is a graduation ceremony and a certificate, but no extra money -- just appreciation. Click here for a link to the Bexar County Jail.