Sheriff proposes mental health facility inside Bexar County Jail

Plan would turn unused bed space into clinic, run ‘separate and independent’ from BCSO

The cost to care for and monitor inmates meant for TDCJ facilities will cost the Bexar County Sheriff's Office over $1 million. (Joshua Saunders, KSAT)

To better address inmates with mental health issues, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar is proposing a plan to convert unused space in the jail’s annex into a mental health facility.

Salazar wrote to the Bexar County Commissioners Court on Tuesday about the proposal, seeking their approval and support for it.

“I believe we have enough interested parties who would be willing to collaborate on the issue and ultimate solution,” Salazar wrote in his letter.

Under the proposal, the facility would be run independently from the sheriff’s office and would reduce the workload on deputies, many of who are already working multiple overtime shifts.

“Nationwide, jails and prisons have become de-facto mental health facilities,” Salazar wrote.

Salazar said there is a “distressing log-jam of inmates” with mental health issues who are waiting to be transferred into state facilities that are currently full. Of the roughly 3,700 inmates in the jail, roughly 400 of them are in need of mental care, Salazar said.

“If I were to take 400 inmates out of the jail and put them in this mental health facility where they’d be much better served, it’s going to save $24,000 in housing costs,” Salazar said.

Salazar said the plan is made possible due to the extra space created by the construction of the jail’s South Tower, leaving the facility with roughly 1,000 free beds.

But the sheriff acknowledges that this plan is still in the early stages and would likely be unique from other Texas jails that have mental health units.

Salazar does not have a timeline for when the project would be finished. He hoped to have the clinic established within the next few years.

Read the full letter below: