Friday, July 22, 2016

Four Suicides in Four Weeks at the Bexar County Jail

Posted By on Fri, Jul 22, 2016 at 9:29 AM

  • Michael Barajas
In all of 2015, the Bexar County jail saw three inmates use bedsheets to hang themselves inside their cells. Until late June this year, however, the lockup hadn't seen any suicides in 2016.

Then, over the course of just three weeks, the county managed to match last year's grisly tally. And then on Friday morning, yet another apparent suicide pushed the jail past last year's suicide count. According to Bexar County Sheriff's Office spokesman James Keith, a 41-year-old inmate found unresponsive in his cell this morning was pronounced dead from an apparent suicide just before 7:30. 

Neither sheriff's officials nor University Health System, which contracts with the county to provide mental health and medical services with the jail, have yet explained why the lockup, which saw no suicides within the first six months of the year, has seen a spike in inmates taking their own lives this summer. The jail's first suicide of the year came on June 28, when authorities say 40-year-old Victor Casas hanged himself in his cell. According to court records, Casas had been locked up since August 2015 on an assault charge.

Then on July 9, 22-year-old Jonathan Campos was also found hanging in his jail cell. Campos was one of three suspects arrested in the June 1 death of 7-year-old Iris Rodriguez, who according to police was shot in the head near Cuellar Park after a fight between men playing basketball ended in gunfire (authorities haven’t yet said who fired the bullet that killed Rodriguez).

Campos' death was enough for the Texas Commission on Jail Standards to conduct a surprise inspection at the jail last week. Earlier this week, Keith said inspectors who visited after the suicides “didn’t find any issues." 

Since that inspection, two more inmates have committed suicide — 18-year-old Jesus Jose Lopez, who'd been charged in the 2015 shooting deaths of two people at a north side apartment complex, and the man found dead in his jail cell Friday morning, who officials yet to publicly identify. 

TCJS executive director provided us this response this morning:
"We were notified and have begun our review of this death in custody. Although our preliminary review of the three suicides that had occurred previously determined that there were no violations of minimum jail standards we met with representatives from the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office and University Health on Wednesday to review their practices to determine if there was any issue we were not identifying and to gain insight as to the current situation. Any suicide is cause for concern and we understand the perception that accompanies these unfortunate events, especially when they occur in such quick succession.  "



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