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Lawsuit: Bexar County jail violates civil rights by holding people too long

Eileen Pace
TPR News
Bexar County Adult Detention

A former resident of the Bexar County jail is suing the institution for being held in custody days after he posted bond, or what the lawsuit calls “over detention.”

Michael Miller was arrested in late October of this year for a bond violation. According to a county database, he violated a protective order. The lawsuit alleges despite paying his bond that day, he was held an additional three days due to the longstanding negligence of the Sheriff’s office, which runs the jail.

Miller has now filed a class-action lawsuit representing potentially thousands of similarly situated former county jail inmates. The lawsuit states 15,000 people are released on bond from the county jail each year.

“The County and the Sheriff’s Office has been aware of the systemic problems and delays in the processing of bail payments and the widespread problem of resulting overdetentions,[sic]” said the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office uses a “batch” system of processing bonded prisoners, where individuals are placed in a cell after they have been bonded but not released until the cellreaches a specific threshold.

“[It] constitutes deliberate indifference to Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights to timely release,” said the lawsuit.

The civil rights lawsuit claims the practice violates people’s fourth amendment rights. It seeks to determine if those “over detained” constitute a class with standing, if the county has acted with deliberate indifference to holding people for hours and days too long, whether the practice violates the constitution, and whether that time is worth something.

TPR had raised concerns from local defense attorneys in 2021 over delays in releases. One local attorney reported at the time that it had never been worse in 19 years of practicing law in the county — taking three to five days to see a client released.

One man spent five extra months in the facility after a court ordered his release, and his case may be just one example of larger systemic problems at the facility keeping people behind bars.

In the course of that reporting, TPR highlighted the egregious case of Cody Flenoury, who was kept in jail for five months after being court-ordered to be released. The lawsuit from Miller filed on Jan. 24 cites the reporting and the case as another example of a poorly designed system.

The booking and release system was highlighted in a recent report given to Bexar County on behalf of American Correctional Consultants. The report notes the Bexar County Adult Detention Center has two release desks, which ties up additional staff.

“There also appears to be an opportunity to combine the two release desk areas into one, preferably the South Tower. In both scenarios, there is the opportunity to possibly reallocate staffing to other needed operational functions,” the report stated.

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Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org