Sheriff Salazar says sending Bexar County inmates to other jails is the ‘new normal’

BCSO has been housing 120 to 150 inmates at a time between the Burnet and Kerr County jails because of capacity issues

BEXAR COUNTY, Texas – Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar thinks the jail’s latest practice of housing dozens of inmates in other counties will become a permanent practice.

With the Bexar County jail nearing capacity, BCSO has been housing 120 to 150 inmates between the Burnet and Kerry County jails at any given time to ensure they have room. The inmates are all “paper ready,” meaning they have been convicted and are just waiting for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to pick them up and bring them to prison.

When the time for that comes, the inmates are first brought back to Bexar County, which is 107 miles away from Burnet County and 66 miles away from Kerr County.

Salazar said many of the state’s major jails have had to take similar measures. Harris County even houses inmates out-of-state, he said.

“Realistically, I think this is the new normal,” Salazar told reporters. “I think we need to be preparing for this on a constant basis now. I mean, we may reach a point where things are working out the way they need to; we can go get our inmates and bring them back. But I think that option is something we should always have available to us, just in the event that we do get, you know, mass unrest followed by a lot of arrests, for whatever reason - unforeseen circumstances. I think that’s something we should always have as a tool.”

When KSAT asked whether the capacity issues might reignite discussion for a new jail, Salazar was dubious that the county would ever get a new jail. But he believes expanding the existing jail, possibly with another tower, “is something that we may need to consider strongly here in the next couple of years.”

However, Salazar also said he’s “not necessarily in favor of building more jail space. I’m more in favor of making better use of the space that we have.”

The Bexar County jail has a capacity of 5,075, but Salazar says state jail standards recommend not going over 90% to allow for inmate movement. Inmates from rival gangs or co-defendants on a case, for example, can’t be housed together.

On Jun. 10, the inmate population reached 5,024. By the end of June, the average daily population was 4,919 inmates.

The jail population often surges during summer months, and it has already been going up in general for several years. BCSO officials say the state has also been waiting to pick up its newly convicted prisoners, meaning they linger in the jail, taking up space.

“Here last year we were looking, about the same time period, we were trending around the 4,200 mark. Now we’re upwards of 4,500 or more, closer to the 5,000 mark. So I think it’s just a sign of things to come,” Salazar said.

The agency also has construction plans at the jail for early 2025 that will force it to close down four living units at a time, each with 48 to 88 people, further compounding the population problem.

Burnet County charges $80 per day to house each inmate, and Kerr County charges $65 per day, which Salazar told reporters was in line with “the going rate” for housing inmates.

For now, the two counties have been working with BCSO on a “good faith agreement,” Salazar said.

Bexar County commissioners discussed creating interlock agreements with the two counties behind closed doors at Tuesday’s meeting but didn’t take any official action.

They had tabled a proposal at a June 18 meeting to allocate $3.5 million for an agreement with Burnet County and $712,000 for a deal with Kerr County. BCSO officials had said those were the costs extrapolated out over the course of a year.

The proposal on Tuesday’s agenda did not include a total dollar amount, just a general acceptance to house up to 120 inmates at a time with Burnet County and up to 70 inmates at a time with Kerr County for a two-month period.

Salazar told reporters he believes the official contracts will be “hammered out here in the next couple of weeks.”

While Salazar said this was the first time BCSO had housed inmates in his administration, the agency says it has happened before.

About the Authors

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

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