The Bexar County Jail failed an inspection conducted last week, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office said Tuesday. Sheriff Javier Salazar subsequently terminated two members of his command staff, his office said Wednesday.
Though the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) has not yet released its full report, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office already has taken steps to fix issues the commission relayed, spokesman Johnny Garcia said.
Those issues include record-keeping of inmate recreational activity, using non-sworn employees in intake and release, and the system used to classify inmates. But these practices are not new, Sheriff Javier Salazar said.
“The use of civilian personnel in booking and the system used for classification of inmates are practices that have been in place [since] as far back as 1998,” Salazar said in a news release Friday. “We will be making changes as required by TCJS. The needed corrective actions have already begun.”
Garcia said civilian employees were immediately moved from their responsibilities in intake and release to other positions within the sheriff’s office.
“They’ve been given opportunities within the sheriff’s office to apply elsewhere,” he said. “They weren’t relieved of their duties, just repositioned to different areas.”
Salazar on Wednesday asked Chief Deputy Don Tijerina and Deputy Chief Ruben Vela for their resignations. Vela, who previously served as jail administrator of the Adult Detention Center, refused and was fired. Tijerina, who served as Salazar’s second-in-command, retired. Though his retirement was set to take effect March 31, Tijerina’s last working day was Wednesday.
“In light of current and pervasive issues, this agency needs swift and decisive management,” Salazar said in a statement. “These former members of Command Staff, while they served this agency well during their many years of service, are no longer part of my strategy and vision moving forward. It is my commitment to the citizens of Bexar County to provide them with the most effective public safety services possible. Personnel changes are a difficult yet necessary part of the overall long-term goal in helping me to lead this agency well into the future.”
Salazar also promoted 30-year Bexar County Sheriff’s Office veteran Avery Walker to deputy chief and jail administrator, according to a Tuesday news release. Walker previously served as acting jail administrator since Jan. 26.
“Through the TCJS inspection, he displayed great leadership ability in swiftly orchestrating a plan to address the concerns raised,” Salazar said in the release. “Chief Walker is reallocating resources as necessary, implementing policies and procedures, and looking at technology to overcome outdated practices which have been around since the mid-90s. I am excited to have Chief Walker on my command staff … .”
TCJS conducted its inspection from Feb. 18 to Feb. 20, Garcia said. The commission inspects on a yearly basis. The Bexar County Adult Detention Center on North Comal Street most recently failed an inspection last March, after three inmates charged with murder escaped from the recreation yard. The commission found that the detention facility had too many inmates in the recreation area at once and was not keeping up with scheduled and unscheduled “checks,” where inmates are searched for contraband items.
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“From March 29 to May 24, we were out of compliance,” Garcia said. “We regained our compliance after that.”
The sheriff’s office also said it sent the jail standards commission an action plan and proposed solutions to regaining compliance on Monday night. That plan was not yet released as of Tuesday afternoon.
This article was originally published on Feb. 27, 2019.