Tue March 11, 2014
Bexar County Requesting Funds To Prevent Sexual Assault Behind Bars
The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office is applying for a federal grant under a new law designed to prevent sexual assault in jails.
The grant could provide the county with as much as $250-thousand dollars to help the jail maintain new federal standards.
Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) in May of 2012, and it includes provisions to prevent, detect, and respond to allegations of sexual abuse in any kind of detention facility.
Bexar County Deputy Chief Raul Banasco said, “Throughout the United States, there have been--over many, many, many years--different kinds of cases either where inmates ... have made allegations of inappropriate sexual contact,” adding that abuse happens both between inmates and also at the hands of staff.
Banasco said the law requires jails to have in place an internal agency, policy and procedures to investigate allegations, but also to look at preventive measures. He said Bexar County now has a PREA Coordinator, and has already passed its first federally-mandated audit. Banasco said the grant will be used for personnel, training programs and some physical changes to the jail itself.
“We’re an old jail and we know we’ve got some blind spots throughout the environment where we can make sure we can make the environment safer. We’re requesting the funding to help us put in more systems, whether it be additional cameras or additional recording DVRs,” Banasco said.
Banasco says in the year since he’s been in San Antonio, there have been “two or three” reports of sexual assault in the adult detention center. The jail must match the federal funds it receives with in-kind services.