Monday, February 9, 2015

Bexar County Jail Seeks More Female Guards

Posted By on Mon, Feb 9, 2015 at 12:59 PM

Bexar County Detention Center - COURTESY OF BEXAR COUNTY
  • Courtesy of Bexar County
  • Bexar County Detention Center

With an increasing female inmate population at the Bexar County Detention Center, the sheriff's office is working toward hiring more female jailers.

Since 2011, the jail's female population grew by 65 percent while the jail annex that houses women — up to 1,733 inmates — needs at least 36 deputies to supervise the offenders, the San Antonio Express-News reported.

The Texas Commission on Jail Standards requires one guard per 48 inmates, and according to Bexar County policy, only women can supervise women who are being held in housing cells.

Of the sheriff's office's approximate 1,900 employees, only 495 were women and only 278 are sworn officers, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

This is also not the first time staffing problems at the county jail have made headlines.

In 2013, the Current reported on staffing problems at the jail, namely that 100 more jailers were needed. The report came in the wake 30-year-old Thomas Taylor's death in August 2012. Taylor was found in an isolation cell after suffering a methadone overdose. Numerous jailers at the time told the Current how untenable working conditions were and how deputies were quitting in droves.

In 2012, an average of ten jailers quit each month, the Current reported. According to the latest jailer turnover report available from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards,19 guards quit in November and 888 positions at the jail were fully staffed for a 2.14 percent turnover rate.

The Bexar County Detention Center, as of January 1, held 3,909 inmates, leaving the facility at 85 percent capacity. In 2014, an average of 595 female inmates are incarcerated at the jail each day, according to the San Antonio Express-News. According to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, 28 of those women were pregnant, as of January 1.

During its campaign to hire more women, the Bexar County Sheriff's Office announced that Laura Balditt was promoted to captain, the first woman and Hispanic to be promoted to the rank in the law enforcement agency's long history.

In an article written by Bexar County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Rosanne Hughes for — a niche blog for corrections employees — Balditt shared why she thinks women pause before choosing a career in criminal justice.

"I think they hesitate because they think they can't do the job — that they have to have a certain personality or stature," Balditt said. "But a lot of women may not realize they really can do this job. It's all a matter of respect. Inmates may be incarcerated, but they're still people."

As the glass-ceiling continues to be battled by women in all fields, Balditt says more doors are opening for women in the criminal justice profession.

"I want to tell young women, they really can do this job," Balditt said. "They can go so far in this career. The boundaries are limitless."

In that story, Bexar County Sheriff Susan Pamerleau cites growing numbers of incarcerated women, not only in Texas, but across the country as why more women are needed at the jail.

"There are many opportunities for advancement for women in this field," Pamerleau said. "With the numbers of incarcerated women trending upward nationally, not only are there jobs only women can fill, but also excellent opportunities for continued professional development."

The San Antonio Police Department is also trying to attract more female officers, and have been holding Women in Policing events this month in an effort to attract more women to a career in law enforcement.

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