Deaths at the Bexar County Adult Detention Center continue to be a major concern for our community. Daniel Maldonado, a 31-year-old inmate died a few weeks ago and his death is being attributed to pre-existing medical conditions, according to the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office. Officials said Maldonado was taken to the jail’s medical section on February 9th after he reported feeling chest pains, yet the medical staff at the jail waited an entire day to bring Maldonado to the hospital where he later died. About a month ago a jury declined to find the University Health System responsible for allegations of civil rights violations that led to the death of Janice Dotson-Stephens, who also died in jail custody, and just this past January a woman who tested positive for COVID-19 while incarcerated died due to complications from the virus. Vanessa Estrada, 29, tested positive on January 4th while in custody at the jail and was relocated for quarantine. Her condition worsened while in quarantine, and she was taken to University Hospital on January 24th, twenty whole days after being diagnosed.
These deaths and so many others that have perished while in custody prove that the medical treatment that incarcerated people receive is inadequate at best, and negligent at worst. These deaths and many others were preventable. Even Sheriff Javier Salazar has recognized that change is needed and publicly said so over two years ago, but so far, nothing has happened. These deaths will continue to happen unless something is done, and because of the demographic make-up of the jail, will impact people of color at a greater rate.
As Dr. Milton Harris suggested in his piece, with two different consultants inspecting the jail operations, now is the time to examine how medical care is provided. And any report that is presented to either the Bexar County Commissioners Court or the Sheriff, without a thorough investigation of the medical systems at the Bexar County Detention Center, will be in my mind, incomplete. We must and can do better because one death is one too many.
Leonora Walker is the Founder and CEO of a non-profit called FREED Texas which extends a helping hand to formerly incarcerated and their families through education, employment, peer mentoring, life coaching, civics, and spiritual support. For more information please visit