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Bexar County jail inmates bused to other counties after near capacity level reached in San Antonio

The detention center
Eileen Pace
The detention center

The sheriff's department reported to county commissioners on Tuesday that it bused 150 jail inmates to Burnet and Kerr counties earlier this month after Bexar's jail population in San Antonio reached near capacity and exceeded recommendations set by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.

Sheriff Javier Salazar prepared memorandums of understanding with the two counties to reduce overcrowding at the adult detention center, a move that left county commissioners with many questions during their Tuesday meeting at the courthouse.

The jail population was still near full capacity at 5,079 on Tuesday. Capacity is 5,107, according to the sheriff's department.

The sheriff did not appear before commissioners to answer questions about the jail population — he was attending a White House meeting on border security.

But the jail's crowded population and the overtime costs needed to staff the facility are well known. The county budget office has pegged those overtime costs for taxpayers in the tens of millions of dollars each year in recent years.

Deputy Johnny Garcia, speaking for the sheriff's department, said the sheriff acted to reduce the population to move the jail toward state recommendations of 90% capacity.

"They recommend that jails should not operate near 90% of jail population capacity in the event that inmates need to be relocated and housed appropriately within the facility," he said.

In other words, a packed jail is a more dangerous place to be.

The sudden rise in jail population is blamed on a new computer software glitch that forced inmate intake and release procedures to be performed manually by jail personnel. The state has also been very slow to pick up inmates that should be in state prison, county officials said.

The 150 inmates bused to the other counties from here were all "paper ready" and should be in state prison, according to jail administrators.

Commissioners tabled a request from the sheriff on a proposed one-year, $4 million agreement with Kerr and Burnet counties.

The sheriff worked out only memorandums of understanding with the counties to expedite matters, but no official contracts.

County Judge Peter Sakai directed sheriff staffers to return with shorter term solutions.

The counties charge $65 and $85 respectively per inmate per day to house them in their jails.

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