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It's heating up at the Bexar County jail as staff struggles with malfunctioning AC units

Eileen Pace

Parts of the Bexar County Jail are suffering air conditioner failures, and, according to guards, temperatures at times exceed 92 degrees. That exceeds state minimum safety standards for jails, which must maintain the temperature at between 65-85 degrees.

Emails obtained by TPR show temperatures reported by staff on Wednesday were above 92 degrees in Unit 1E — a trailer used to house 24 inmates at Bexar County Adult Detention Center.

Problems began on Sunday, and temperatures have reached as high as 97 degrees inside the unit, according to the emails.

A spokesman for the county denied the allegations.

“The condenser fan motor had been having difficulty over the last few days and finally gave out (Wednesday),” said Monica Ramos.

The county facilities department deployed portable AC units to address the issue while they order parts, and now they say it's “holding” at 75 degrees inside the unit.

“We have portable AC units in several areas, and all temperatures are within standards,” said Adelina Simpson, a sheriff’s spokeswoman.

Ron Tooke, president of the Deputy Sheriffs Association of Bexar County, said when it's cool outside, it's cool in the unit — but once the sun comes out the temperatures will exceed safety standards again.

“They can’t get out. The employees can’t leave, the inmates definitely aren’t going anywhere and they’re sitting in a 90 plus degree temperature…like their smoking meat in there,” Tooke explained.

TPR could not confirm the current temperature within the unit through emails it obtained.

Tooke and the union have taken their concerns about the Jail’s infrastructure public over the past month — often to the denials of the county facilities department. Tooke said he hoped to raise the issues with the county and commissioners, who control the building itself.

“I'm hoping that whoever it is that has made this jail a non priority. We'll kind of take a look at it and say, 'maybe we need to look at this thing and reevaluate the way we're doing business here,' ” he said.

A county spokesman said the condenser failed on the unit that conditions 1E, and it has been emergency ordered. The part's arrival is anticipated in the coming weeks.

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Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org