5 More Inmates Test Positive
Five more Bexar County Jail inmates have tested positive for COVID-19. That brings the total up to 15 infected inmates. Of those 15, seven were from the same group of units along with three officers who worked those units. The units are in the Bexar County Jail Annex. Those units have been locked down. There is no movement into or out of the units other than staff.
The highly contagious virus has disrupted the normal functioning of the jail, which under Salazar, was already running poorly. Aramark, the company that holds the contract to feed the inmates, has started cooking the meals at a different location and bringing them in. Considering the past history of problems that the jail has had with Aramark, it’s unlikely that the process is going smoothly.
Salazar’s Incompetent Crisis Management Endangering the Community
Sheriff Javier Salazar has failed as a sheriff at so many levels, some of which have cost inmates their lives, but as bad as that has been, it was still confined to within the walls of the Bexar County Jail. With the COVID-19 pandemic, he now has an ability to cause harm beyond the walls of the jail and into our community. Salazar was extremely slow to implement mandatory face masks within the jail. Even if the general public was not to that point it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that a jail has unique characteristics that allow for the fast spread of a disease. Everyone knew this.
Yet, not only did he not mandate that his deputies wear masks, he also didn’t provide them for the inmates, until just recently. And even then, inmates were given one mask to wear for multiple days. A face mask can get saturated with the virus in a similar way that a baby’s diaper, worn too long, can get saturated with urine. When the wearer touches the face mask to move it away to eat or adjust it, that face mask will contaminate his hands, which leads to him contaminating every surface he touches. As we’ve said many times before, Salazar orders actions based on how he will be perceived by the public but these are not well-thought out actions. They are not being made with a serious intent to address a problem.
Released Inmates Complain about Conditions
KSAT interviewed inmates who had been released from the Bexar County Jail. Yes, people being let back out into our community after having been held with possibly infected inmates. One person described the environment as a “petri dish” which is pretty much exactly what it is. The two inmates, interviewed separately, talk about the lack of concern until about a week ago, the failure to supply fresh face masks daily and the need to repair torn, falling apart face masks. Again, both those inmates, along with many others, are now out in our community. They have a right to be out but they also had a right to have the Sheriff’s Office do its best to protect them. That is a huge part of the Sheriff Office’s function.
We have no idea if those inmates who have been released, are asymptomatic. We do know that they were put in a situation that could very easily have lead to them becoming infected. We do know that they weren’t given protective equipment in a timely manner and even when supplied, handled in a way that was more likely to cause harm than good. And we do know one other thing. Those released individuals are interacting with community members now. Watch the video on KSAT. Watch the man who had a hole in his face mask while in the jail, and now is not wearing a face mask at all, hug his girlfriend who has come to pick him up.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice Update
We want to remind you that a lawsuit was filed against the Texas Department of Criminal justice for its failure to supply inmates with the needed protective equipment and cleaning supplies. According to the Texas Tribune,
“A federal judge has issued a temporary order requiring one Texas prison to provide hand sanitizer and face masks to inmates. The order comes after older inmates at a geriatric prison sued the Texas Department of Criminal Justice over its handling of the new coronavirus…
The order also requires TDCJ to provide cleaning supplies to inmates and present a plan within three days to test all inmates at the unit for the virus.”
In case anyone is wondering if it’s only Salazar that has handled this situation badly, let me assure, it isn’t just him. The inmates in the Pack Unit are at high risk due to their age. They are asking for face masks, hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies. WE ALL WANT THOSE THINGS! Those are needed items in our attempt to fight this virus. The inmates are not making ridiculous demands. And every facility that incarcerates individuals has a responsibility to take care of those individuals to the best of their ability.
So how did the Texas Department of Criminal Justice respond? They are appealing the ruling. In other words, they don’t want to do it. They were only ordered to do this for ONE prison, not the whole state prison system, and they are trying to avoid doing it. How pathetic is that?