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'While You Were Sleeping': The Bexar County jail is a 24-hour operation

Detention officers, inmates work around the clock

SAN ANTONIO – At shortly after 1 a.m., steam rises from what looks like a Texas-sized pressure cooker inside an industrial-sized kitchen.

Nearby, one man dressed in a tan jumpsuit pushes a broom across the floor while another prepares plastic trays for the meal that is cooking.

They’re preparing to serve breakfast to their fellow inmates at the Bexar County jail in the middle of the night.

However, this is just one area buzzing with activity inside a facility that never shuts down.

“This is 24 hours a day,” said Sgt. John Paul Garcia, who actually works in an equally busy section of the jail known as the booking area.

“I get their paperwork, review their charges, review their commitment, review their bonds,” he said, discussing the process for incoming inmates.

Once they’re photographed and fingerprinted, people who are due for a stay behind bars will go through a thorough screening, where everything from their health to their criminal history is reviewed.

Then they wait to be called for placement into a cell.

“Typically, they will spend here, waiting on housing, about 8 to 10 hours depending on how tight it is upstairs,” Garcia said.

Up in the office known as “classification,” staff members sort out their guests, placing them in appropriate areas of the jail based on the crimes they’re accused of committing, both at that time and in the past.

Garcia, a 15 year veteran of the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, says even in the middle of the night, the jail is a busy place. 

His schedule involves working in excess of 10 hours per day inside a building where it’s tough to tell day from night.

“The people, the staff, the hours work great for me,” he said.

There are a lot of people.

At any given time, Garcia says, the jail houses about 3,000 male and female inmates.

Some are there to serve out sentences for misdemeanor crimes, while others may be there temporarily, awaiting trial or transfer to other facilities.


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