As Bexar County commissioners are set to discuss the hiring of a jail consultant Tuesday, Sheriff Javier Salazar has already employed one on his own.
Bexar County staff is recommending that commissioners approve a $19,950 consulting agreement with American Correctional Consultants. The group, based in Florida, would evaluate the county’s chronically overcrowded jail and make recommendations for improvements.
But Salazar announced Oct. 12 that he had selected Belton-based Detain Inc. to consult with the sheriff’s department on jail operations. He will meet the organization’s president, Bill Bryan, and another consultant named Shane Poole on Tuesday for the first time, Salazar said at a news conference Monday.
“We’ve already sent them some information and they’re already starting to do their homework. … They may even want to take a tour of the jail and get eyes on what it is that they’re going to be doing,” Salazar said.
Bryan and Poole will attend the Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday to meet commissioners and answer any questions they may have, Salazar said. The contract that he signed with Detain is worth around $49,000 and has no set timeline, he added; the consultants are there to study the jail and make recommendations for best practices on operations, hiring new detention deputies, and retaining deputies.
“We’ve asked them to wrap it up sooner rather than later,” he said. “I don’t want this thing to drag on for a year. We’re envisioning that we would like them to be done by early 2022 at the latest.”
Commissioner Trish DeBerry (Pct. 3), who broached the idea of hiring a jail consultant earlier this year, said she was disappointed with Salazar’s announcement as she envisioned a consultant being “truly independent.”
“We’ve conducted interviews. I’ve looked at references,” she said. “For the sheriff to somewhat out of the blue say, ‘I’m hiring my own consultant’ is a bit like the fox guarding the henhouse. He may get the answers that he wants, but it’s not a truly independent analysis of what’s going on at the jail if he’s handpicking the consultant.”
American Correctional Consultants will attend Tuesday’s meeting virtually to speak with commissioners, DeBerry said.
Salazar argued that Detain was not only more familiar with Texas jail standards, as Bryan is based in Texas and works in the state, but also that his move will save taxpayers money because he is using asset forfeiture funds to pay Detain for its services.
“My intent was not to disrespect anybody or circumvent anything,” he said. “I’ve got a job to do and sometimes we move a lot faster around here than a large bureaucracy will allow. And so I brought in who I think is the best in the business.”
And while he is open to receiving recommendations from more than one source, it’s unnecessary, he said.
“Why charge the taxpayers $20,000 when you might duplicate efforts?” he asked.