Mike Ward, a reporter with the Austin American Statesman has released information today that shows calls were made to a female friend of escaped and now recaptured Stiles unit inmate David Puckett dating back to September of 2010. TDCJ Office of Inspector General information confirmed that Puckett had used the cell phones capability to update posts on the popular social networking site Facebook. Accomplice Mattice Mayo, 25, was said to have been in contact with Puckett,27, using the FaceBook site as well as by phone.
Ward contacted Texas Senator John Whitmire about the issue who stated, “This is absolutely outrageous,” Whitmire said. “Apparently the (Texas Department of Criminal Justice) is incapable of blocking cell phones from getting into prisons, and now one has been used in an escape. Before we experience a tragedy, this needs to be stopped.”
Whitmire demanded that Gov. Rick Perry authorize prison officials to immediately begin jamming cell-phone signals in state prisons.
“We need zero tolerance on cell phones in prisons. Whatever it takes,” Whitmire said.
“This state should do whatever it takes to stop cell phones from getting into prisons, and if the current leadership at TDCJ can’t do that, we need to find someone who can.”
|Texas Senator John Whitmire|
Whitmire also voiced concerns then during a special Senate hearing in which he publicly blasted TDCJ chief Brad Livingston, and OIG chief John Moriarty for their inaction in fixing the cell phone issues. It's come down to a point of hiring standards now. It may not be possible to do any more employee searching then the agency already legally does. Short of body cavity searches, I think the agency has done what it can to stem the flow of contraband in most cases, at most facilities. Jamming brings it's own issues, number one being the legality of it.
The ban against cell phone jammers isn't new. In fact, it's the musty old 1934 Communications Act that bans the jamming of any commercial radio communication, a law that predates not only jammers but cell phones themselves. The state of Texas would be in violation of the act if it attempted to use the jammers. The federal government can jam the airwaves in some cases, but states do not have that power or ability. Movie theaters, Restaurant, and police agencies have all tried and failed to get permission to use jammers to stem unwanted cellular transmissions. It is said the the United States has the most strenuous jamming laws in the world. Canada, Mexico, Norway and a few others use jammers to stamp out cell phone use. And are using them successfully.
In support of Stiles unit senior Warden Richard Alford, who has been assigned to the unit for just a few months, open records information the Backgate obtained last month clearly showed improvement in contraband issues, and weeding out of corrupt employees. This escape may unfairly target him being he is at the helm of this perpetually troubled facility. So whats the answer ? How does the agency clean up or change the issues with contraband ? Does it all come down to hiring standards and the morals of those we hire for the little pay ?