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The Source: Suicides At Bexar County Jail Explored

A file photo of the Bexar County Sheriff's Office and detention center.
Eileen Pace | Texas Public Radio
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Since 2009, 15 people have committed suicide in Bexar County Jail, more than any other county jail in Texas. The problem drew so much attention that it was a campaign issue for then candidate now Sheriff Pamerleau. 

In a 24 day period there have been four suicides in Bexar County's Jail, and the community is asking why. 

Speaking at a press conference last Friday, Pamerleau highlighted the county jail's efforts to stymie future suicides and some of the technological advances the jail has implemented to ensure staff were making their rounds.

"About three and a half years ago, this agency was still doing observation checks by logging in - in handwriting - in paper logs," she said. A strategy that led to faked bed checks and poorly kept records. Now the officers are given a metal tracker that  must make contact with sensors at each checkpoint. 

At that same press conference Gilbert Gonzalez, director of Bexar County's Mental Health Department said the suicides are present in society and difficult to detect often until it is too late.

"There is no blood test that you can take to determine if you are suicidal," he said. "One person every 17 minutes in the United States commits suicide."

The Bexar County jail was recently reviewed by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards and found to be within compliance with Texas' standards.

What does this spike mean?

Guests:

  • Deputy Chief Raul Banasco, Bexar County Jail Administrator
  • Michelle Deitch, attorney and senior lecturer at the University of Texas Austin and an expert in jail conditions.
  • Brandon Wood, executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards
David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi
Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive