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Bexar County deputies’ union wants jail facilities fixed

jail bexar county union.jpg
Courtesy: Deputy Sheriff's Association of Bexar County
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Some deputies cover their desks with plastic drop cloths at the end of their shifts.

The Deputy Sheriff's Association of Bexar County is calling on local leaders to fix facilities issues they say make the conditions unsafe for inmates and officers.

In a letter Tuesday, union president Ron Tooke asked Dan Curry, Bexar County facilities management director, to act.

“The [union] is alarmed by the multitude of maintenance issues that currently exist, have been ongoing for several years, and are a hazard to the safety and health of the staff and inmates,” Took wrote in the letter.

Parts of the Bexar County Adult Detention complex date back decades, and it shows.

The letter includes a laundry list of issues, from dirty vents causing health issues to broken cells. Tooke wrote that air conditioning units failed this month, and internal temperatures rose to around 100 degrees for several days.

In a response letter, Curry disputed many of the union’s assertions.

“We are experiencing the hottest July in Bexar County history, but my team has done a spectacular job ensuring the jail stays operational and in compliance,” Curry said.

The county contends no one at the jail was housed in a facility over 85 degrees, which would have been over the minimum state safety standard.

The union reports broken toilets and sinks in staff areas, but Curry wrote they have no documentation of that.

Water and sewage leaks are prevalent, said the union. The jail has been dinged in state inspections for sanitary issues in the past. The jail did pass its most recent minimum safety inspections from the state.

In some instances, the union reports, leaking sewage pipes have destroyed ceilings, causing them to collapse on desks. Each night, staff in some areas cover their desks in plastic drop cloths, according to a union spokesman.

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Courtesy: Deputy Sheriff's Association of Bexar County
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Leaks from water and sewage pipes has destroyed some ceilings, and caused some to collapse

“Water leaks are present in the facility, and are caused by several factors,” Curry wrote.

He explained that the area sits under housing, and the leaks are caused when the people in jail flood their cells; it empties into areas that affect the ceiling below.

Both the union and Sheriff Javier Salazar told TPR earlier this month that they expected facilities issues to be raised in an upcoming report on the jail from third-party auditors.

“Although these are both things we’ve known for some time, perhaps hearing it from not one, but two disinterested third parties will help improve quality of life for jail personnel and inmates alike,” said Salazar in an email to TPR earlier this month.

Salazar’s team didn’t respond to requests for comment on this story. The previous statement puts the onus on the county and Commissioners Court, a forum Salazar has had to go to for millions in overtime dollars the past several years as they struggle to staff the jail.

The letter comes in the midst of the county’s budget writing cycle. The union has also been adamant about raising the entry level wage of detention workers to shore up staff.

Tooke says the conditions undermine the physical and mental health of staff and of those jailed.

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Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive