This story has been updated.
Amid growing concern about guard and inmate safety, Bexar County Commissioners Court approved roughly half a million dollars Tuesday to repair broken locks at the county jail.
Commissioners Court opened up a request for bids to fix the locks in May. On Tuesday it selected Cornerstone Detention Products Inc. to retrofit existing locks on 396 doors across nine units in Towers B and C of the jail.
The measure was approved on the consent agenda, meaning there was no discussion about it during the regular meeting.
The move comes as new leadership of the Deputy Sheriff’s Association of Bexar County has voiced increasing concern about the safety of guards working in the jail, due to unsafe conditions and understaffing.
“We’re glad to see something is being done, but it barely scratches the surface of the overall problem,” DSABC Vice President Captain Lance Spengler said of Tuesday’s vote.
Spengler spoke last month about conditions at the jail in a wide-ranging interview.
“All we’re wanting is the locks fixed in the maximum security units where you’ve got the worst of the worst,” he said.
“They’ve changed out the doors, now the doors are out of whack, so they need to come in and realign locks to make them work right, and they don’t want to spend the money,” Spengler said of the Commissioners Court.
In a statement Wednesday, Bexar County Public Information Officer Monica Ramos said, “The locks were never at any time, broken. They have always functioned properly. The purchasing item is to upgrade the locks to newer models. “
DSABC President Lieutenant Ronald Tooke said in the same interview that guards face attacks almost daily, and morale is at an all-time low.
“We’re getting to the point where we don’t have enough people,” said Tooke. “We’re all freaked out about it.”
On Tuesday, Tooke said the jail is currently understaffed by about 300 detention officers.
“Our jail is in disrepair due to the lack of preventative maintenance and parting out other areas to fix the current break … creating an even bigger security issue,” Tooke said in response to the Commissioners Court’s move.
In January, an inmate was stabbed to death after two other inmates bypassed at least one lock inside the jail, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said at the time. It’s unclear if the locks that led to that incident will be replaced as part of the approved contract.
Salazar could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.
The studies were called for last year amid concerns about rising overtime costs and vacancies on jail staff.
Spengler said the union has invited members of the Commissioners Court to tour the jail. So far one commissioner, Rebecca Clay-Flores (Pct. 1) sent her chief of staff.