Detailed inspection report paints troubled picture of BCSO jail operations

9 violations noted in jail inspection report released Monday

SAN ANTONIO – An inspection report made public Monday by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards lists nine violations that caused the Bexar County Jail to fail its most recent annual inspection -- its first failed annual inspection in a decade.

At the conclusion of the commission's inspection on Feb. 22, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar issued a statement, noting three areas with which the TCJS inspector took issue, and that some of the practices flagged by the inspector had been in place since 1998.

Days later Salazar confirmed the jail had failed its inspection, adding that the full report would not be available for a few days.

In the report released Monday, the commission expanded on the nine areas of non-compliance, including inmate intake, release, classification, health services, supervision and sanitation.


Use of civilian employees at jail

Inspectors found that in multiple areas of jail operations, civilian employees undertook jobs they were not licensed or qualified to do.

The report noted that the Sheriff's Office used civilian employees to release inmates, which, according to the report, is a violation of minimum jail standards.

The commission is requiring the Sheriff's Office to replace the civilian employees assigned to inmate release with trained, licensed officers. 

According to the report, civilian employees were also acting as jailers. The report stated that civilians were employed within secured areas of the jail, which requires, at minimum, a temporary jailer license. The commission recommended that civilian employees "be removed immediately from the jailer positions" and be replaced with licensed officials, as required by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

While conducting a walk-through of the courthouse holding area, inspectors noted that civilian employees were seen operating intercoms and were in control of doors in secured areas. The commission required that civilians in the courthouse holding area be replaced with licensed jailers.

Civilians assigned to the inmate intake were tasked with screening inmates for mental health issues, developmental impairments and other medical issues according to the report. Officials are requiring those civilian employees to be replaced by health professionals or trained booking officers. 

Suicide prevention

In addition to having civilians who lacked medical training assigned to mental health screenings of incoming inmates, the report stated that the Sheriff's Office was unable to show that all detention staff had undergone annual suicide prevention training.

The commission is requiring that all officers receive suicide prevention training and that the Sheriff's Office maintain training rosters.

The report also detailed the inconsistencies in how checks on inmates under Full Suicide Precautions are conducted. Inmates under FSP are to be checked on every 15 minutes. However, an electronic record states one time, while a separate handwritten log states conflicting times. 

Additionally, the jail lacked cameras to verify that jailers are conducting mandatory checks of FSP inmates.

Inmate supervision, classification, recreation

A sample of inmate observation logs showed that some jailers failed to do face-to-face inspections every 60 minutes, as required by minimum jail standards. Staff, according to the report, failed to complete the checks, and in at least one instance, didn't do face-to-face checks for more than two hours.

Jail inspectors also found that jail staff was classifying inmates using a point system based on the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting program, which, although approved by Bexar County's court system, officials could not provide an itemized point breakdown. Officials are requiring the jail to have a point breakdown explanation available for review during inspections. 

The commission also found that some inmates under the "special management" classification -- inmates who need protection, such as renounced gang offenders -- were afforded up to four hours in the day room, despite being classified as general population. The Sheriff's Office is required to develop a plan of action that will ensure that general population inmates get all of their privileges while in custody.

The Sheriff's Office was also unable to demonstrate that inmates were getting at least one hour of recreation time, three days per week, the report noted. BCSO will be required to implement a plan of action that will afford inmates recreation time, as required by minimum jail standards.

Jail officials also reviewed the inmate grievance and complaint process and found that officials assigned to address grievances were putting a period -- "." -- as the 15-day interim response, rather than creating a written plan of action to address an inmate's greivance.

Sheriff's Office to submit a corrective plan of action

According to Brandon Wood, the executive director of TCJS, the Sheriff's Office will be required to submit a corrective plan of action to the commission, and once it's approved and implemented consistently, the Sheriff's Office can submit a request for reinspection to the commission.

Wood said it typically takes a few months for a jail to regain compliance. 

Sheriff Javier Salazar said last Tuesday that officials sent proposed solutions and plan of action regarding the areas of noncompliance noted in the report. The sheriff also appointed Capt. Avery Walker to the post of permanent jail administrator and named him Deputy Chief of the Adult Detention Bureau.

"Chief Walker is reallocating resources as necessary, implementing policies and procedures, and looking at technology to overcome outdated practices which have been around since the mid-'90s," Salazar said in a prepared statement. 

Wood said Monday that he will meet with jail administration in the next two weeks to go over the report.

According to the Sheriff's Office, the last failed annual inspection was in January 2009, when inspectors found seven areas of noncompliance.

The sheriff was not immediately available Monday to provide comment regarding the inspection report.

Click here if you are unable to see the timeline of incidents at the jail below: