SAN ANTONIO – Three suicides at the Bexar County Jail in three weeks prompted what the Texas Commission on Jail Standards described as an "unannounced special stop-by visit" to see if the deaths could have been prevented.
Before a memo could be sent to the Bexar County Sheriff's Office August 2, a fourth inmate would hang himself.
The KSAT-12 Defenders obtained the memo, which found two issues to address.
One involved video taken in a pod area in which one of the inmates had killed himself. It said:
"The video seemed to have been compressed when it was recorded and the times from the pod camera and recording device were different, the gap grew in time while watching play back. The administration was advised to have a diagnostic run on the systems to check for any technical issues. The importance of properly running recording equipment, be it video monitoring or the electronic round keeping system was stressed to the administration."
It also addressed the way n which the Sheriff's Office notified the commission of the deaths. The memo said:
"This inspector (Phillip Bosquez) went over initial information to be included along with the time frame via the death email notification system. A template was discussed to provide the essential information for the email, this would be distributed to all command staff for continuity of reporting."
The memo made no mention of the jail's staffing. This week, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Office said, there are 959 uniformed positions in the jail. As of Aug. 1, there were 74 vacancies. BCSO has spent more than $500,000 in overtime this year to keep the jail properly staffed, often with deputies working an extra 8-hour shift. There were no noted issues of non-compliance.
The Defenders recently requested all of the state inspections performed at the jail since 2008.
The reports track the number of deaths, suicides, escapes and fires that occur in all Texas jails, as well as any deficiencies found.
According to the documents obtained by the Defenders, from 2012 to 2015, under the leadership of Sheriff Susan Pamerleau, there were no deficiencies found by inspectors. There were 20 deaths, 10 suicides, four escapes, and 16 fires recorded in that time period.
Under the watch of former sheriffs Amadeo Ortiz and Rolando Tafolla, between 2008-2012, state inspectors logged 21 areas of noncompliance that were later corrected.
There were two areas of noncompliance in 2010, seven in 2009 and 12 in 2008. There were 25 deaths, 11 suicides, two escapes and 22 fires reported in that time period.
The inmates who committed suicide have been identified as the following:
- Victor Casas, death by hanging, June 28
- Jonathan Campos, death by hanging, July 9
- Jesus Lopez, death by hanging, July 15
- Melvin McKinney, death by hanging, July 22