Bexar County's new professional County Jail Adminsitrator is on the job, and Raul Banasco says he is aware of the unique challenges of running an urban county jail.


  "This is where society often doesn't greet you with a smile at the front door," he said.


  Banasco will succeed a series of professional law enforcement officers who have been handed jail duty.  He is a career jail operator, with experience in public and privately run facilities, and as a criminal justice consultant.


  Sheriff Susan Pamerleau says she has high hopes for Banasco, who takes over a jail which has just received full state accreditation, but has wrestled with low staffing levels, turnover, overcrowding, and some outside problems faced by jail guards, including recent arrests for drunk driving and other crimes.


  Banasco says old ideas about what the role of an urban county jail is have to change.


  "The philosophy of locking up individuals who have encountered the criminal justice center is not the most viable and not the most economic way to go," he said.


  Banasco says his goal is to reduce the number of people in the jail, by dealing with alternatives, including mental health counseling.


  He says he also hopes to work closely with corrections officers to raise their morale and help make them proud of their work in the jail, protecting society while changing lives.