Thursday, September 22, 2011


A nifty way to manipulate statistics.


Grits for Breakfast
September 21, 2011

While preparing a post the other day on staffing at the Bexar County Jail [in San Antonio], I ran across a brief story from the San Antonio Express-News about a jail inmate who hung himself in a detoxification cell at the jail in June. "Adrian Rodriguez, 31, was pronounced dead at University Hospital on Saturday. He had been found hanging in a detoxification cell at the jail Thursday, the Bexar County medical examiner's office said. He died of complications of a hanging; his death was ruled a suicide."

Notably, the Bexar County Jail has been criticized for having far more inmates commit suicide than national averages, and for failing to adequately screen inmates for suicide risks. In this case, "A screening at the City Magistrate's office and again at the jail, where [Rodriguez] saw a psychologist, found 'no indication that he was suicidal,'" A consultant hired last year to analyze jail suicides found that the jail exhibited "an unexplained tolerance for potentially suicidal behavior."

What drew my attention, though, was the bureaucratic sleight of hand used to keep from counting this event in the jail's overall suicide tally. Reported the Express News, "While in the hospital, he was given a personal recognizance bond Friday, so 'he was technically not in custody,' said Adan Munoz, executive director of Texas Commission on Jail Standards. 'We are going to follow up, if there's anything there, but it's not being handled as an in-custody death.'" So they found the guy hanging in his cell, he died from injuries sustained in the hanging, but it's not officially an "in-custody death." Really?

The inmate had been arrested on a robbery charge and had " a lengthy criminal record," according to the paper, so it's pretty clear the personal recognizance bond was merely a ruse to keep another suicide from going on the jail's record. Jailers can't issue personal bonds on their own, though: They'd have needed the cooperation of the District Attorney's office and a local judge to push the bond through, and they'd need to do so in an extraordinarily expedited fashion to get it done between the time the inmate was found hanging in his cell and when he was declared deceased.

One wonders how many other jail suicides have been whitewashed off the books in Bexar County in this fashion?

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