Bexar County Jail's Fatal Flaws Come to Light
Published: June 5, 2013
Taylor’s grandfather, who was a father figure to him, had died months earlier. Family and friends suspect those combined losses first triggered Taylor’s serious drug use.
Months after Braiden’s death, Taylor swallowed a bottle of pills when he was home alone in an apparent suicide attempt. He dialed 911 when he changed his mind.
“The firefighters that showed up were being real ugly with him,” Grindle said. “Tommy said they were telling him things like, ‘You dumb-shit, you can’t even kill yourself right.’”
Perhaps that’s why Taylor spit on one of the first responders before they carted him off to the hospital. When doctors discharged Taylor, Terie watched as police led her son out in handcuffs on charges of assaulting a public servant.
“They threw the book at him for it,” she said. “I’ll never understand that.”
An autopsy report from Bexar County lists the numerous tattoos that covered Taylor’s arms and torso.
“‘RIP Braiden’ is tattooed on the right lateral lower chest wall.”
Newly elected Sheriff Susan Pamerleau says she discovered a jail in financial crisis soon after being sworn into office in January.
While Commissioners allotted $250,000 for jailer overtime through fiscal year 2013, which began in October, Pamerleau announced the office had burned through $1.2 million in overtime during those three months before she took office.
The crunch highlighted the schism that had widened between Pamerleau’s predecessor, Amadeo Ortiz, and County officials over his last year in office. Bexar County Manager David Smith routinely called such overtime costs unnecessary, and told commissioners and reporters alike the overruns were symptoms of mismanagement and waste.
In 2009, Ortiz took over a jail staffed with 932 detention officers that averaged about 4,300 inmates every day – his first summer in office, inmate populations swelled to 4,600. But by 2011 local jail reduction strategies began to show results, dropping inmate levels to less than 3,600, where they’ve hovered ever since. Still, the jail’s budget remained flat until commissioners drafted a 2012 budget that cut $4 million from the jail, mainly through the axing of 100 jailer positions through attrition — commissioners begrudgingly reinstated $2 million of those cuts last year.
Months before Taylor died in lockup, a Texas Commission on Jail Standards staffing analysis seemed to back up Ortiz’s warnings that the jail was understaffed, saying Bexar County needed nearly 100 more detention officers than officials had budgeted for in order to keep the jail running properly. Ortiz heralded the report during his unsuccessful re-election campaign.
“The only way that we passed inspections was…we used a lot of mandatory overtime, so much that we burned out the officers,” Ortiz told a news conference last year, claiming the staffing crunch had “destroyed morale” at the jail. Then-TCJS director Adan Muñoz told reporters, “Eventually, this facility will not be safe and secure for inmates and detention officers.”
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