Friday, February 03, 2012

Jail standards commission: Bexar jail understaffed

In the debate between the Bexar County Commissioners Court and the Sheriff over whether the jail is adequately staffed, the state Commission on Jail Standards this week came out with an estimate siding with the Sheriff to say current staffing levels are insufficient without using overtime. Reported the SA Express-News ("State says jail needs additional staff," Feb. 1):
A staffing analysis of Bexar County Jail, recently completed by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, supports Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz's contention that the jail is understaffed, officials said in a news conference Tuesday.

To meet state standards, 801 jailers are required for the jail's current population of about 3,600 inmates, according to the analysis.

An additional 121 uniformed officers are needed to fill what commission Director Adan Muñoz said were essential positions to “operate an efficient facility,” but they aren't required by the state.

The total number of officers needed at the jail, based on the analysis, is 922, which is 92 positions more than Bexar County budgeted for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

In an interview, County Manager David Smith dismissed the analysis and repeated his call for a study by an independent third party.

If county commissioners don't accept the state commission's findings and adjust the budget accordingly, Muñoz said, the jail “would probably be in noncompliance” for failing to meet the state's minimum jail standards.

“Hardly ever have we been far off from an estimate on how a county should run its jail,” said Muñoz, whose agency was asked by Ortiz to conduct the analysis.

Last week, the state agency conducted an annual inspection of the jail, which passed. The inspection focuses on the required ratio of one officer to 48 inmates, but Ortiz said the facility only passed because officers are working mandatory overtime.

From December 2010 to December 2011, Ortiz said, he approved 41,000 hours of overtime, and he spent $1.2 million in overtime for fiscal year 2010-2011.

He said he plans to stop forcing officers to work overtime soon and will ask the Commissioners Court to accept the analysis and make appropriate staffing changes.
Staffing costs generally are driven by the jail population, which requires at least one guard per 48 inmates. In theory, de-incarceration reduces expenses, but reliance on overtime means the county is paying a 50% premium on core labor costs. I don't understand why reducing the jail population at the Bexar County Jail hasn't reduced staffing needs, but Grits will be surprised if an independent analysis comes in too far below the TCJS estimate of how many jailers are needed.

See related Grits posts:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

county commissioners don't realize that the metrics the sheriff provides are bogus. its time to establish new set of benchmarks, especially when no one can figure out why expenditures go up when the jail population goes down. maybe its time to employ a hospital accounting and staffing model. most hospitals seem to manage ok dealing with patient fluctuations. ideally, a hospital that doesn't have a union.