Sunday, March 30, 2014

Governor Perry to US Attorney General Eric Holder - Texas won't cooperate with PRIA standards




By Backgate Staff

This is an excerpt of a letter sent by Texas Governor Rick Perry recently to US Attorney General Eric Holder regarding the feasibility of Texas prisons being able to follow the federal governments mandated PRIA (Prison Rape Elimination Act) standards. I found it myself to be a rather sensible response to a complex issue regarding basic security practices behind the walls.

Here it is...


"Because PREA standards prohibit most cross-gender viewing, TDCJ would be compelled to deny female officers job assignments and promotion opportunities, simply based on their gender. A consultant referred to TDCJ by the PREA Resource Center absurdly suggested that TDCJ solve this proglem by removing security cameras and obstructing lines of sight. That is ridiculous. Doing so would not only be a security risk for both prisoners and staff but also increase the likelihood of assaults taking place, defeating the intent of the law.

PREA also infringes on Texas' right to establish the state's own age of criminal responsibility. That age in Texas is 17. PREA, unlike the JJDP Act, which recognizes each state's age of full criminal responsibility, makes no allowances for differences among the states. PREA sight and sound separation standards would require Texas to separate 17-year old adult inmates from 18-year old adult inmates at substantial cost with no discernible benefit to the state or its inmates.

PREA standards also set specific staffing ratios for juvenile detention facilities different from the state's current rate. While this ratio may be ideal in some facilities, the decision of what constitutes appropriate staffing ratios should be left to each state and to those professionals with operational knowledge. One of Texas' 254 counties has said that compliance with this standard would require them to hire 30 more detention officers. That is an unacceptable cost for a small county with a limited budget. ...

PREA standards also mandate that by May 15, 2014, the governor of each state must certify, under threat of criminal penalties, that all facilities under the governor's control are compliant with PREA standards. Texas has approximately 297 facilities subject to PREA, including 164 lock-up facilities. PREA requires one-third of these facilities to be audited each year, yet no audit tool for lock-ups has even been developed. There is no way that I will certify compliance for facilities that have not even been audited. The compliance and certification deadline is further complicated by the fact that PREA requires states to conduct audits by PREA-certified auditors. There are only about 100 PREA-certified auditors nationwide, and the first of those were not certified until late 2013.

Even if the manifest problems with PREA standards I laid out above did not exist, I cannot and will not certify as true those things for which I do not have the facts.

Washington has taken an opportunity to help address a problem in our prisons and jails, but instead created a counterproductive and unnecessarily cumbersome and costly regulatory mess for the states.

I encourage the administration to change these standards and do so soon. Absent standards that acknowledge the operational realities in our prisons and jails, I will not sign your form and I will encourage my fellow governors to follow suit. In the meantime, Texas will continue the programs it has already implemented to reduce prison rapes"

Rick Perry 

Monday, March 24, 2014

7 Officers Arrested at the Gib Lewis Unit After Alleged Sexual Assault



By Staff Reporter
 
Woodville, Texas -  As of this afternoon 7 Texas Department of Criminal Justice Employees have been arrested and booked into the Tyler County Jail in Woodville in what is being described by an anonymous source to The Backgate as an alleged sexual assault against an inmate housed at the Gib Lewis Expansion Cellblock. 
 
The Gib Lewis Unit is a 2,200 bed prison facility east of Woodville and is home to some of over 850 of Texas' worse inmates who are housed in the high security expansion cellblock.  The high tech expansion cellblock was built in 2000 next to the Gib Lewis Unit. 
 
According to an anonymous source, a security lieutenant, two sergeants, and several officers were called to "E" pod of the expansion cellblock during the night shift on Wednesday, March 19, 2014. 

An inmate was alleged to have threatened to rape and kill the family of a female officer working at the "E" pod cellblock.  Officers allegedly entered inside the cell of the inmate making threats without protective gear, which would be a violation of prison policy. 

Once inside the cell officer and ranking staff alleged to have engaged the inmate in an unreported use of force.  The inmate is alleged to have claimed he was sexually penetrated with an unknown object by one of the officers during the alleged unreported use of force.
 
The agency public information director Jason Clark, along with the Tyler County Sheriff's Office have verified the following Gib Lewis Officers were arrested and booked into the Tyler County Jail; Lieutenant Darrick Seale (male, age 42), Sergeant Frank Mraz (white male, age 48), Sergeant Claude Kelley III (white male, age40) Officer Andrea Creel (white female, age 49), Officer Joseph Coons (white male, age 22), Officer Jamie Christian (male, age 37), and Officer David Spence (white male, age 32).  Officer Jaime Christian remains in jail tonight and the other 6 defendants are out on bond.

The defendants at this time are facing charges of official oppression, but the case is still under investigation meaning more charges might be brought. 
 
Agency spokesman Jason Clark would not confirm any allegations of sexual assault, but released the following statement, "seven TDCJ Correctional Officers have been arrested for their actions related to an undocumented use of force on March 19 at the Lewis Unit." Clark stated the case was currently under investigation and was unable to provide any additional information. 

This case brings unusual attention due to most unreported uses of force actions resulting in administrative action only.

TDCJ Releases a New Video in an Attempt to Recruit


 
 
Huntsville, Texas -  The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has released a new recruiting video in an attempt to fill vacancies in the agency after losing over 6,000 officers this last year.  The agency remains over 3,200 officers short.  Other Texas criminal justice professionals, such as DPS Troopers and game wardens received a 20% pay increase, while the correctional officers only received a 5% stretched out over a two year period.  

It will take at least a 20% to 25% pay increase to fill these vacancies as the Texas economy continues to grow.  The recruiting video is a start, but pay will be the factor which draws qualified applicants to the agency.  




Why Fewer Prisons Are Good for Texas’s Economy


Marc Levin, the director of the Center for Effective Justice and co-founder of Right on Crime, makes the fiscal conservative’s argument for closing correctional facilities.  Texas Monthly’s Nate Blakeslee highlights Marc Levin and Right on Crime in his article “Why Fewer Prisons Are Good for Texas’s Economy.”

“Levin’s chief message, that incarcerating too many people for too long for nonviolent crimes isn’t a good use of taxpayer funds, has resonated with conservative voters and legislators. He advocates more effective and less costly measures, such as drug courts, which divert low-level drug offenders to treatment programs instead of prison, and more effective use of probation.”

Since 2011 Texas has closed 3 prisons without a single job loss for TDCJ employees.  Benefits and pay have been maintained during economic downturns. 

See Texas Monthly's Interview with Marc Lavin: 

 CLICK HERE FOR TEXAS MONTHLY INTERVIEW



For More Information on Conservative Criminal Justice Reforms Visit: 

http://www.rightoncrime.com/

Sunday, March 23, 2014

New York Times Features TDCJ Patriot Paws Program

 
Gatesville - In an article in today's New York Times by Sonia Smith, inmates from the Lane Murray Unit are featured in the Patriots Paws program that trains service dogs to perform basic task for disabled veterans. 
 
Dogs are trained to completed task such as  pulling up bed covers, retrieve a bottle from a refrigerator, pick up a wafer-thin credit card from the floor, and even help with the laundry by dropping soiled clothing in a washing machine and removing items from a dryer. Some can also remove shoes and socks and pull up a pair of trousers for a disabled person.
 
Training a service dog takes from 18 months to two years and, even with inmate labor, can cost up to $20,000.  In 2008, Patriot PAWS expanded its service dog training program to include a partnership with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ).

As of a 2011 report, of the 21 women involved in the program that have been paroled, the recidivism rate was zero.
 
See featured article in the New York Times by clicking below:

New York Times - TDCJ Patriot Paws Program

A version of this article appears in print on March 23, 2014, on page A27B of the National edition.


For more information on the program: Click here for Patriots Paws Prison Program Information

Investigation Pending After 63 Year Old Montford Unit Inmate Dies Following Force by Staff

Offender Wayne Benjamin McCoin, 63 (DOB 11-14-1950)
Serving a 99 Year Sentence Out of Red River County, Texas
for attempted capitol murder.  TDCJ # 923939.
 
By Lance Lowry
 
Lubbock, Texas - The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Office of Inspector General is investigating the death of a 63 year old psychiatric inmate after he refused orders to be removed from his cell at the John Montford Prison Psychiatric Unit in Lubbock. 
 
Sometime during the daytime of March 19, 2014, correctional staff attempted to remove Benjamin McCoin, from his cell at the Montford Unit.  McCoin refused orders from correctional staff to be removed from his cell.  A 5 man extraction team was sent into the cell to remove McCoin, who was immediately examined by nursing staff and placed in another cell.
 
While in his newly assigned cell, McCoin complained to staff about a pain in  his hip and was taken to the University Medical Center in Lubbock  for observation.  That afternoon while at the hospital McCoin collapsed and immediate efforts by hospital staff to revive him failed.  McCoin was pronounced dead at 5:50 PM.
 
 
Pictured above is the 94 bed treatment facility.  The unit has a 400 bed trusty camp not pictured.
 
Violent Recidivism
 
McCoin was no stranger to the criminal justice system.  McCoin exhibited a history of violence and psychiatric episodes.  On October 22, 1985 McCoin committed an aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and was convicted of the crime in Lamar County on February 7, 1986, when he was sentenced to 2 years in the Texas Department of Corrections. 
 
Upon making parole from the Texas Department of Corrections, McCoin returned to Lamar County where on October 31, 1986 he committed his second aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.  This time McCoin was handed down a 10 year sentence on January 12, 1987. 
 
With a shortage of prison beds in the Texas Department of Corrections in the mid 80's and early 90's, making parole was easy, even for some of the most violent inmates.  Parole came early for McCoin who left the prison system and in 1992 became a  ranch hand in Red River County.
 
Life as a ranch hand gave McCoin access to the tools of the trade.  In East Texas beaver dams are a big problem.  The mud and stick compounds used by beavers can form a structure that can not be removed by hand implements and may be in marsh land that is not easily accessible for earth moving equipment.  McCoin, who was a violent convicted felon, was given access to dynamite to take down beaver dams on the property. 
 
McCoin was infatuated with his ex-wife Jeanette White.  McCoin allegedly became verbally abusive towards Jeanette and allegedly threatened her.  Jeanette reported the incident to Red River law enforcement.
 
On September 14, 1992, McCoin learned that Red River law enforcement were looking for him after a warrant was issued for his arrest.  Law enforcement officers went to the ranch looking for McCoin, but were unable to locate him that day. McCoin knew he would most likely return to prison for the third time, since he was still on parole for his second aggravated assault.
 
Revenge May Not be so Sweet in Texas
 
While hiding from the law, McCoin devised a plan to seek revenge for his ex-wife filing charges that would most likely mean his return to prison.  McCoin having learned how to use explosives to take out beaver dams, decided now to use the explosives to take out his ex-wife Jeanette White. 
 
McCoin keeping with his promise of revenge and violence against Jeanette, on the night of September 15, 1992 placed dynamite under the bedroom of Jeanette and her current husband Mitchell White.  McCoin lit the fuse on several sticks of dynamite below the floor of the trailer house.
 
The dynamite was detonated under the corner of the Whites' bed, turning it over and knocking both of them nearly out of harm's way from flying shrapnel and wooden debris from where the bomb was set under the floor of their trailer house. 
 
Once the dust cleared it was determined, Mitchell suffered several broken ribs; Jeanette suffered minor injuries. The child, McCoin's eldest son, suffered cuts and scrapes and broken glass embedded in his legs and feet caused by running barefoot to his mother's room to determine whether she was injured.
 
McCoin's life on the land quickly came to an end, now facing federal explosives charges.  Two days later McCoin was arrested and now faced felony possession of explosives charges.  After the bombing, psychiatrists appointed by former East Texas federal judge William Wayne Justice ruled McCoin incompetent to stand trial.  McCoin spent the last six years at a federal mental institute, and was judged competent to returned to Texas in 1999.
 
McCoin was re-indicted on state charges of attempted capitol murder on October 14, 1999.  During his trial in Red River County, McCoin attempted to represent himself at trial and at one point was removed from the courtroom during pretrial motions where he rushed 102nd District Court Judge John F. Miller Jr.'s bench in a confrontational manner.  Red River County Sheriff Chief Deputy Larry Spangler and Deputy Terry Reed briefly struggled with McCoin who was carried out of the courtroom by the deputies.
 
A Red River County Jury quickly found McCoin guilty during his trial and sentenced him to 99 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.  McCoin would later attempt to appeal his case claiming to not have been competent to waive counsel.
 
McCoin while in federal custody had spent several years in a prison psychiatric facility at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners (MCFP), in Springfield, Missouri until 1999.  McCoin's violent psychiatric episodes continued while incarcerated in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.  January of 2014, McCoin was transferred by Texas prison officials to the Montford Prison Psychiatric facility which became his prison of final destination. 
 
McCoin's death after his confrontation at the 94 treatment bed facility will remain under investigation by the Texas authorities.  At this time it is believed McCoin's death is the result of heart failure, but an autopsy is pending in the final cause of death.  His madness may have been his final demise. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Texas Private Prisons Now Required to Disclose Under State's Open Records Act


By Lance Lowry

Austin, Texas - For years private prisons have claimed they could run prison facilities cheaper than public institutions without cutting quality measures, however most companies refuse to comply with the same standards public institutions face with open records request and legal jurisdictions requirements being the same as public institutions.  Private prison companies have helped fund organizations such as American Correctional Association (ACA), who issues accreditations to both public and private prisons.  With increasing dependence from private prisons ACA executives are pressured to keep accreditation standards under terms the private prison corporations set, allowing no real measure for actual standards. 
 
On Wednesday the 353rd State District Court judge in Travis County may have leveled the playing field  more by ruling that the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) is a "governmental body" and is subject to the Texas Open Records Act.  This court ruling will require private prison companies to release records that are normally required to be made public by public institutions.  Information such as staffing levels and officer turnover rates may now be required to be released by private prisons that receive state governmental money in Texas.   
 
In a lawsuit filed by Prison Legal News in May 2013 against CCA, the publication sought records on the CCA Dawson State Jail, and argued that "incarceration is inherently a power of government.  By using public money to perform a public function, CCA is a government body."  State District Judge Charles Ramsey agreed in a 1 page order granting Prison Legal News a summary judgment.
 
CCA in August 2013 attempted to shield itself from public scrutiny by filing a request to seal a lawsuit brought on by 17 Idaho news organization.  US District Judge Edward Lodge issued an order that scaled back the protection CCA sought.  Now the company is facing an FBI Criminal Investigation as a result of its Idaho Operation and understaffing cover-ups at an Idaho prison know as the "Gladiator School." 
 
An audit of CCA's Idaho operations by the forensic firm KPMG at the request of the Idaho Department of Corrections reveals in 2012 CCA fell short on 26,000 hours. 
 
The state of Texas last year closed down two CCA facilities and may be expected to cut more with CCA's current performance history.  With CCA's falsification of records in Idaho, the new Texas open records ruling may reveal the same type of cover-ups on staffing in Texas. 
 
 
See Prison Legal News Lawsuit:  Click Here
http://www.tdcjunion.com/research/PrisonLegalNewsLawsuit.pdf