Family says county waited too long to stop transfer of inmates to treatment facility

‘I want my husband to come out of there alive, not in a body bag.'

SAN ANTONIO – The family of a San Antonio man who has spent the past few months at a county treatment facility sharply criticized the decision of officials to only recently suspend transferring inmates there from the county jail, where the number of COVID-19 cases has risen dramatically in recent days.

“It’s very hard because he feels like doesn’t have a voice,” said Maria Hernandez, whose husband, Larry Rodriguez, has been at the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility in the 10900 block of Applewhite Road since around Christmas.

Rodriguez’s family shared an April 5 letter written by Rodriguez in which he wrote that “they are taking risks with our health and our lives” by continuing to bring people to the treatment center from the jail.

Rodriguez specifically discussed one inmate who ate, slept, showered and attended classes with fellow residents for four to five days before being put into isolation.

Rodriguez’s letter indicates that he and other residents had filed grievances over the matter but had not received responses to their concerns.

“I just feel like it’s common sense to help stop this virus that you should do the social distancing,” said Rodriguez’s 19-year-old daughter, Alexus. “We don’t want him to come home and then something happens to him, and not only him but other people as well.”

Seven inmates, 14 deputies and multiple civilian employees at the jail have tested positive for the deadly virus, all since the start of the month, according to BCSO officials.

KSAT 12 has found no indication that anyone currently residing or working at the treatment facility on Applewhite Road has tested positive for the virus.

County officials this week gave conflicting information on when the decision was made to finally stop moving inmates from the jail to the facility.

A Bexar County Sheriff’s Office spokesman said via email Monday the decision was made that day and would be revisited by Adult Probation (Community Supervision and Corrections Department) in two weeks, on April 27.

Jarvis Anderson, director of Bexar County CSCD, pushed back on that timeline Tuesday, claiming via email the decision was made Friday after his office learned that an inmate at the jail had tested positive for COVID-19.

‘It’s very dangerous’: Probationers say they weren’t offered alternative to in-person drug screenings during COVID-19 pandemic

Anderson said he consulted with both Sheriff Javier Salazar and Mike Lozito, director of the Office of Criminal Justice, Planning and Programs, before making the decision Friday.

Rodriguez’s family said either timeline was unsuitable because the county knowingly continued to transfer inmates for well over a week after the April 2 announcement that a detention officer had tested positive for COVID-19.

“They should have stopped that, transferring residents from one facility to another, as soon as they found out about this virus,” said Hernandez, who added that early March would have been a more acceptable time to stop the practice.

Bexar County defendants were given a choice to stop in-person drug screenings during COVID-19 pandemic, most declined

The facility on Applewhite Road is operated by CSCD and provides services for adult individuals placed on probation by courts in Bexar County and other counties throughout Texas, Anderson said via email.

Footage captured by KSAT 12 on Tuesday showed residents walking in a tightly bunched single-file line.

Anderson confirmed Tuesday up to 60 probationers sleep in a single dormitory inside the facility.

“I’m concerned because I want my husband to come out of there alive, not in a body bag,” said Hernandez.

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March.

MORE CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE FROM KSAT:


About the Authors: