Saturday, April 30, 2011

Houston TV News Reporter to cover story on TDCJ employees having sex with inmates

Stephen Dean/ KPRC News Photo

 From The Backgate

Veteran KPRC Channel 2 news Houston investigative reporter Stephen Dean has uncovered yet more issues with TDCJ staff members having sexual relations with offenders. These issues have been around for years, but they seem to be becoming even more frequent. Dean will report just what he found live on the Sunday night May 1st 10pm newscast.

The Peabody Award winning investigative reporter Stephen Dean has been exposing abuses of power and government missteps since 1984. His in-depth reporting has exposed countless episodes of wrongdoing and shady dealings, including those by judges and other elected officials. Two have been removed from office after Dean reported on their tactics that targeted innocent people. One was indicted and arrested after running from Local 2 cameras.


(Bio courtesy of KPRC)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Over 14,000 strong, TDCJ's Tango Blast gang still creating major issues inside the walls.

By Doug Glass, Backgate Website

  Texas prison officials first noted the presence of a gang known as the Four Horseman in 1998. Some Hispanic gang members entering the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) from the cities of Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston were not interested in joining an established prison gang and established the Four Horseman to protect one another and to engage in illegal activities, particularly drug-trafficking, to make money. The Four Horseman became known as the Tangos, because its members wore tattoos that reflected the town (or tango) in which they resided prior to their incarceration. As interest in the Tangos grew among Hispanic gang members entering the TDCJ from other areas of Texas, only inmates from West Texas, the Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio and El Paso were allowed into the gang.

Of the eight groups now recognized as Tangos, six are part of what is now known as Tango Blast or Puro Tango Blast. Tango Blast includes Tangos from the four original cities as well as the West Texas and Rio Grande Valley areas. Tango Blast differs from the Tangos in that separate Tango Blast members sometimes band together to help one another. The rapid growth of the Tango Blast poses a significant new security threat within the TDCJ and elements of the Tango Blast appear to be challenging the Texas Syndicate for control of illegal prison activities. Upon release from prison, Tango members appear to return to their local street gangs, rather than continue their prison-based gang affiliations.

In 1998, the Tango Blast prison gang is formed in the Clemens state prison in Brazoria, Texas. (Gang Intelligence 101)

In 2001, both the Tango Blast and Barrio Azteca engage in a gang fight in a gymnasium at the Torres state prison in Hondo, Texas. Both gangs settle a truce soon after. (Associated Press)

On January of 2002, members of the Barrio Azteca brutally stab a Tango Blast member while the victim is using the restroom at the Robertson state prison in Abilene, Texas. A gang war between the two gangs erupts state wide soon after. (Associated Press)

On June 2002, the Tango Blast retaliates against the Barrio Azteca by severely beating 4 of its members in the John B. Connally state prison in Kenedy, Texas. (Gang Intelligence 101)

In mid 2002, the Texas Syndicate declares war on the Tango Blast prison gang. (Gang Intelligence 101)

In April 2002, members of the Texas Syndicate murder a Tango Blast member at the J.B. Connally state prison. (Gang Intelligence 101)

On August 7, 2005, Tango Blast member Rolando Vasquez murders Juan Rodriguez, a member of the Varrio Northside street gang in Houston, Texas. (Vasquez v. State, No. 2-06-409-CR (Tex. App. 9/4/2008)

On August 31, 2006, several Tango Blast members are arrested for drug distribution and trafficking in Dallas, Texas. (Aguilar v. State, No. 05-07-00660-CR (Tex. App. 8/18/2008)

In October 2007, Tango Blast member William Linzer kidnaps and rapes a teenage girl in Houston. (Associated Press)

On May 2007, Tango Blast member Jesus Elizondo, 22, shoots and kills a 15-year-old boy in Dallas. (Associated Press)

In June 2008, The Tango Blast prison gang attack Texas Chicano Brotherhood members in the J.B. Connally state prison. (Gang Intelligence 101)

On November 16, 2008, Tango Blast members murder Alejandro Vasquez in a nightclub in downtown Dallas. (Associated Press)

On December 2008, ten members of the West Texas Tango gang are arrested in a major cocaine and meth trafficking ring. (U.S. Department of Justice Press Release)

In 2009, four members of the Tango Blast gang are arrested by FBI officials in Houston for possession of more than five kilos of cocaine. Agents seized fire arms, high end cars and jewelry. (Associated Press)

With law enforcement all over Texas comparing notes on the group, hundreds of arrests are being made from everything from armed robbery, to murder by Tango members. The group lures in new members by offering protection and unity. Although members claim not to follow the same principles of other prison gangs, they sometimes do. They routinely "cora check" or "beat in" potential gang members, and many face the same repercussions if they leave the group. They originated in the late 1990's as a group to protect themselves against other gangs, but have evolved into a prison based criminal enterprise. Trafficking drugs, tobacco, cell phones and extortion have elevated the Tangos past the level of most established Texas prison gangs.

Tango members are violent towards other offenders and staff members alike, being responsible for the majority of offender and staff assaults on many prison units. The group has grown significantly over the last couple of years and there true numbers within the Texas prison system can really only be estimated based on self admission by the offender, or through security threat group investigation.No matter what their official numbers, they will surely be a thorn in the side of the TDCJ for years to come.

Beaumont prison where prisoner used cellphone to escape has top number of guards disciplined for sneaking in cellphones, other violations

 Backgate Says: 

The Backgate encourages you to check out the Texas Watchdog Website. It's seasoned reporters cover what main stream media won't touch. The Backgate was mentioned in this story published in march. 

By Jennifer Peebles, Texas Watchdog

The Beaumont prison from which an inmate escaped with the help of a cellphone earlier this month has one of Texas’ worst track records for prison personnel bringing cellphones into the facility.

That’s according to a Texas Watchdog analysis of prison system data procured by WOAI-Channel 4 in San Antonio.

Stiles Unit, the maximum-security facility from which David Puckett, 27, escaped and made his way to Nebraska, had the third-highest number of incidents in which Texas Department of Criminal Justice workers were accused of bringing or allowing cellphones, phone components or accessories into prison confines between 2006 and mid-2010, the data show. It had 42 such cases.

With nearly 3,000 inmates and 800 employees, Stiles tied with Neal Unit, another state prison near Amarillo, for the highest number of overall reported cellphone-related disciplinary infractions for state staff, with 46, the database shows. TDCJ oversees 113 adult prison and state jail facilities.

Authorities haven’t said how they think Puckett obtained the phone he used to plan his breakout and meet up with a female admirer in Omaha, where he was recaptured. But the prison system’s inspector general, John Moriarty, said prison personnel are a factor in phones coming into the Texas prisons.

“One bad employee can bring in a lot of phones,” Moriarty said.

See entire story here !

Monday, April 25, 2011

Texas Comptrollers release of ERS employee information costs taxpayers $1.8 Million so far

By The Backgate Website

If you are a Texas state employee be on the lookout for criminals using your personal information to commit crimes. The Comptrollers office admits, millions of employees may have been affected by the release of information of employees using ERS and TRS retirement systems.  The Comptrollers office began mailing out notification letters last week. And at a time when the state is scrambling to find every dollar to avoid teacher and vital employee layoffs, the state has had to pour $1.8 million into correcting the mess so far. 

The office mailed out letters to those affected, a $1.2 million cost; set up a call center to offer assistance to them over the phone, costing the state $393,000; and spent $290,000 contracting with two different information technology consultants in examining the agency's information security policies and procedures. And the costs could rise.

The Austin American Statesman reported :

The breach occurred after information was transferred to the comptroller by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, the Employees Retirement System of Texas, the Texas Workforce Commission and the Department of Public Safety to be used as part of the state's unclaimed property verification system.

The information was erroneously left on a publicly accessible server for about a year.
Four employees in the comptroller's office have left because of the incident.
The attorney general's office is investigating at least one suspicious phone call that might be connected to the exposed data.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Blast from the past : Chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice sits down with the Backgate

By Max Rodriguez, Backgate Website, (originally published  07/14/09)

 He came towering in to the conference room from around a corner inside the TDCJ parole office where he met with us. There seemed to be excitement in the air. Carrying himself as a former West Point graduate would. Open and receptive towards our reporter, and anxious to answer your questions it seemed. Chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice Oliver J. Bell was on a tour of institutional parole offices in Region III Houston area when the Backgate met up with him for an exclusive Q & A session.

Mr. Bell started out by giving us a quick run down of his personal history. He Is a 1982 graduate of the West Point military academy, and then went on to serve his country with the U.S. Army for nearly 15 years. He is also a former airborne officer that established the first Army desert reconnaissance school that saw many recruits prior to, and during the first war in Iraq and thereafter. Mr. Bell eventually left the Army after obtaining the rank of Major.

When asked how he came to be a member, then eventually the chairman of the TBCJ, he stated that after meeting with individuals from the Governor's office, that he eventually decided to accept the voluntary position on the board. He was then selected by the Governor for the position of chairman later on down the line.

The following is the Q & A session that we did with Mr. Bell;

Backgate: What are your ideas on how to improve the quality of the agency ?

Mr. Bell : "TDCJ staff members are outstanding at what they do first of all. I think we have a good base to expand from in place right now, we just have to never be satisfied at where we are at. Through increased pay increases and constant training we can make it a better place. Hiring standards also play a part. We need to keep working towards a common goal in the agency. "

Backgate: As you know, TDCJ employee morale is low on most units statewide. Added responsibility, less staff to perform the work, and lowered hiring standards are complaints that staff claim are all significant issues within the agency right now. WHat can the board do to improve the situation ?

Mr. Bell : "Staffing is at 95% at this point and getting better. TDCJ was the only state agency to see a pay raise this session. That shows, even though it wasn't what we had hoped for, that the legislature knows what needs to be done to help recruit and keep employees. TDCJ added pay increases for recruits and also at the first couple of steps of the pay grade. I know for a fact that the TDCJ leadership team have worked hard at getting employees a pay raise. I think we are on track to seeing significant improvements over time."

Backgate: What exactly is the purpose of the TBCJ ?

Mr. Bell : "We are an oversight board appointed by the governor. We serve 6 year terms. We are basically the eyes and ears for the agency and state government. We come from all different backgrounds, and walks of life. it's a collaborative effort on the boards part to improve the quality of the agency. As part of an initiative i established, i asked that board members visit every TDCJ unit in the state. We did that. Asking line staff and administrators how things were going, and what their ideas were to improve the agency. We asked questions and asked for staff input."

Backgate : Employee retention is a key factor in the staffing shortages that TDCJ has endured over the years. What would you propose to help fix the issues with retention ?

Mr. Bell: "Raising the pay. Establishing professional standards. Improving staff morale. More training."

Backgate : What do you see to be the focus of the board over the next year ?

Mr. Bell : "Standards for CO's and parole officers. Increasing rehabilitation initiatives, expanded use of environmentally " green " projects such as the current pilot program we have that is producing biodiesel for agency tractors. "

Backgate : What do you feel to be the direction of the agency over the next ten years as it applies to TDCJ , and dealing with parole, and prison rehabilitation ?

Mr. Bell : "I think the goal will be public perception of TDCJ as an agency and improving that image. Improved parole and re-entry programs to help make sure the ex-offender that may move in next to you is rehabilitated and you are safe."

Backgate : When you visit TDCJ facilities, what do you see as you walk through those hallways ?

Mr. Bell : "I see good professional correctional officers doing a tough job. Our employees are great."

Backgate : What do you think about the establishment of a board of TDCJ staff members from all over the state to meet and discuss ideas and ongoing issues that may affect morale, turnover, or safety issues ?

Mr. Bell : I think focus, or discussion groups could be a good thing. To take employees at varying levels and allow them to meet with TDCJ directors and others in an effort to solve problems would be beneficial. A " lunch with the director" or other upper leadership groups could be something to look at.

Backgate: What is you take on how to control contraband coming into a TDCJ facility, and what are your ideas on combating issues with corrupt staff members statewide ?

Mr. Bell : "Corrupt staff members make all the others look bas as well. Our goal is to continue to combat them and put them on the other side of the bars. They will fail before we do. One person can set back the agency in the eyes of the public. And public trust is lost. We have a zero tolerance on the issue, and i myself sat at the hearings where TDCJ was grilled pretty good by a state senate committee. It was rough, but i have no problem doing that if it will improve the situation. I am all for enhanced security, and cutting off the flow of contraband into the facilities. As a matter of fact, a hearing at the federal level next week will determine if TDCJ can utilize cell phone jamming equipment to cut off the cell signals from a prison. This would be a great tool. "

Mr. Bell then went on to say that the board is taking the initiative to address employees whenever possible as to let staff know that the board does appreciate the work they do. We thank Mr. Bell, and the board for their participation in this interview, and their promise to assist TDCJ employees in any way possible. In previous years, the board, nor TDCJ would have been as approachable. With public relations weighing in on the way all state agencies do business, and the way Texans vote, we hope that this is just the beginning.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Ledge eyeing illegal aliens behind bars and reducing Ad Seg numbers

By  Mike Ward

With just six weeks left for Texas lawmakers to balance the cash-strapped state budget, an unlikely source of savings is being eyed to soften the cuts to schools and human services programs: prisons.
In recent weeks, an assortment of proposals that just a few years ago never would have received a serious hearing have gained support. Even if only a few are adopted, they could profoundly change prison operations in the Lone Star State.

Deporting thousands of foreign-citizen felons and privatizing state jails and prisoners' transportation and medical care are being touted as ways to save as much as $500 million over the next two years.
Even the idea of keeping thousands of fewer criminals in solitary confinement is being considered.

See entire story

Backgate Says:

Texas has an assortment of violent and problematic offenders locked up in Administrative Segregation. To have to pick some to release to satisfy a politicians budget plan would be a safety concern for all employees. The Ledge needs to research this from the inside out before making such an uninformed decision, or come down and work a day on a seg line... The deportment of illegal alien offenders is long overdue. What are your thoughts ?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sweeping new prison plan would save state millions

TDCJ Photo
 By Mike Ward

Significant changes in how Texas operates its state prisons and punishes its nonviolent, low-level felons are to be proposed today in a move that supporters say could save tens of millions of additional dollars for a cash-strapped state budget.

Included is a plan to expand the use of "shock probation" sentences with limited prison time, to charge imprisoned felons more for their medical care, to study hiring additional private companies to run state jails and transport convicts between prisons, to consider releasing some critically ill convicts to save on medical bills and to begin selling over-the-counter medications to convicts rather than giving them away.
A fiscal note on the proposed changes says they could save nearly $13.5 million in two years, according to a copy of the document obtained by the American-Statesman. But House leaders said they expect that the savings could be at least twice that.

See entire Story Here

Backgate Says:

Does the state of Texas need the liability of an outside company paying it's Officers minimum wage to watch over some pretty bad inmates ? We have all seen the meltdowns in the past surrounding private prison companies. Riots, murders, etc. - Keep prisons under state care.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Texas State Representative Jerry Madden looks into TDCJ mediation practices after seeing Backgate Story

Jerry Madden
 By Duane Stuart, Backgate Website

State Corrections  Committee chair Jerry Madden has stated to the Backgate that he is looking into the current system of mediation as we know it within the agency. The Backgate story published yesterday regarding the broken system of TDCJ mediation that allows some TDCJ employees back to work after committing severe rule violations and even sometimes illegal acts is under review by the house Corrections Committee Chairman.

In an email to the Backgate from Representative Madden, he states that the current system is now under review by the committee. The Backgate recently received information under the Texas open records act that showed that some terminated employees were allowed back to work after the TDCJ internal mediation process found loopholes in the current system that allowed them back. Some of those employees where charged and found guilty of acts that were illegal, to include establishing intimate relations with offenders. Charges that are described in the Texas penal code as a state jail felony.

Is TDCJ overlooking such charges to maintain staffing levels ? If so, what examples for new incoming staff members does that provide ? Has the agency sold itself out to avoid legislative scrutiny over staffing issues ? Is this adding to an atmosphere of corruption that has plagued the agency for years ? Stay tuned, thousands of Texans and other readers want to know...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Is the TDCJ termination mediation process broken

New open records information received by the Backgate from TDCJ states that 461 agency employees were recommended for termination FY2010. Of those, 139 were allowed to return to work after being mediated back at the individual Regional level. Is the system that was designed to assist employees avoid false claims, excessive charges and other situations broken ?

Some of the charges levied against these employees now range from simple multiple repeat infractions such as being late to having relations with offenders. A broad range of issues that are sometimes criminal. In most cases where employees are mediated back they are sent to other state prisons to start again. Some employees have actually been terminated more than once. Is the agency sending the right message about corruption and maintaining it's rules of conduct?

Region III once again holds the lead for employees recommended for dismissal and of those mediated back to employment, but other Regions have also gained. Over the next few weeks the Backgate is going to get outside comment on these issues and talk about ways the current system can be tweaked. Stick around and see how it all plays out.Check out the below listed numbers on agency mediations FY2010.

Dismissal   Recommendations     Changed in mediation

Region I          97                24
Region II         52                17
Region III        119               52
Region IV         56                15
Region V          76                20
Region VI         32                8
Parole            6                 0
Other             23                3 

Information provided by the TDCJ human resources headquarters through open records act.

ERS and TRS members had personal information unsecured online for a year

Susan Combs

 By Max Rodriguez, Backgate Website

TDCJ employees along with thousands of other ERS and TRS members have had their personal sensitive information such as social security numbers and addresses exposed online by the state of Texas for at least a year reported the Texas Comptrollers Office.

Comptroller Susan Combs apologized for what she called a human error, not an intentional cyber crime. The Texas Attorney Generals Office is investigating however. Combs says that 3.5 million Texans were affected.

Letters will go out Wednesday informing people that their personal information was vulnerable. A website - - is now available and beginning Tuesday morning a toll-free phone line at (855) 474-2065 will also be open for Texans to check if they will be receiving a notification letter. Members are urged to check their credit report, and bank accounts for any unauthorized activity.

Lets see how many people are now victims of identity theft due to this " human error".

Double dipping TDCJ retirees may be a thing of the past if Ledge has it's way

By Tobias Richards, Backgate Website

More than six-thousand state of Texas employees are Double Dipping. It's when a person retires, collects a pension, gets hired back and collects salary. This is costing residents $400 million a year said KRGV , a TV station in the Rio Grand Valley. A bill is pending right now in the state legislature that would ban double dipping in Texas. Under the bill, if a retiree comes back to work for the state they would not be able to continue collecting a pension at the same time. Taxpayers could save $135 million if the legislature passes the bill putting to an end to double dipping stated KRGV.

Is it really smart to ban retirees from hiring back on with the agency ? Training an incoming new Officer costs TDCJ thousands of dollars each to train. And most new hires quit within the first year reports state. Seems like experience would win over new, fresh off the street Officers who seldom last a year.  The Texas Department of Public Safety is also affected by retiree hiring practices and could lose out on these experienced employees as well. These staff members have given years of dedicated service to the state of Texas and have earned the right to return to duty. Upon retiring,  if they return within a specified length of time, they do not go back through Officer training. Saving the taxpayers that money.

PBS discusses prisons versus education funding

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.

Backgate Says:   

So is it an issue of bad laws, personal responsibility, or how parents are raising their kids today ??? Place your comments and suggestions below in the comments section. What are some alternatives to incarceration in Texas ?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ledge ends free state employee housing, goes with a flat 20% of fair market value requirement

 From The Austin American Statesman

Responding to legislative leaders angered that taxpayers are subsidizing prison officials' housing costs, even as the corrections agency was laying off workers and closing programs to save money, the Texas prison board voted Friday to make employees pay more for their state housing.
The Texas Board of Criminal Justice decided unanimously to change agency policy to start charging everyone living in state houses at least 20 percent of the fair market value, and many others 100 percent of market value.

See full article here

Monday, April 4, 2011

Past Interview by the Backgate: Answers still make since two years later

By: Duane Stuart, Backgate Website
Originally Posted 08-03-09

At TDCJ's Huntsville administrative complex, he occupies an office at the very end of a long narrow hallway. His office contains a collection of TDCJ memorabilia that he has accumulated throughout his 30-year career with TDCJ, and an array of family pictures. We sat down with Mr. Cooper to discuss the past, present, and future of the agency, and even a little about his own direction within the agency.

Cooper is a 30-year veteran of TDCJ who succeeded Quarterman in his deputy director position. Cooper began his long TDCJ career in 1978 as a correctional officer at the Ellis Unit in Huntsville and steadily rose through the security ranks before being named senior warden of both the Wallace Unit and Ware Transfer Facility in Colorado City in January 1994. He moved to the Telford Unit in New Boston as senior warden in May 2000 and was promoted to director of CID’s Region V Office in Plainview in February 2002.

As Region V director, Cooper oversaw 15 facilities housing approximately 25,000 offenders and served as a liaison between the unit wardens and senior CID administrators. Longtime Clements Unit Senior Warden Bruce Zeller was promoted to replace him as director of the Region V Office.

Cooper is a soft spoken, inviting, yet calculated man who whole heartedly enjoys his position within the agency. He was excited to address TDCJ employees in this forum, and we appreciate his time and effort in giving the interview. When asked about his feelings regarding the Backgate Website, Mr. Cooper stated that he saw it as a positive tool for TDCJ employees. We agree of course.

Below are some of the questions we posed to Mr. Cooper as submitted via email by TDCJ employees statewide;

BG: What are current staffing levels like at this point on TDCJ facilities?

Cooper: "Staffing numbers should be right at 100% by the end of August. The only exceptions may be those units located in West Texas, or other areas where the units are more isolated. I think the current state of the economy has helped us out some, and we hope that are numbers continue to grow. Clerk jobs and other entry level positions have become highly sought after positions in recent months. Positions that would have normally attracted maybe 10 applicants have now brought in 20-30 applicants. Some even having a college degree. Many people are trying to get their foot in the door with the agency, and hoping to climb the career ladder here where their job is more secure unlike those in the private sector. "

BG: How does that effect the quality of staff that we hire?

Cooper: "We hope to be able to increase the TDCJ hiring standards at some point. We will have to look at what exactly that may be, but possibly enact some higher standards of qualification. We tried that some years back with negative results as the number of people applying dropped dramatically after they learned they would have to meet physical requirements to be hired on. We later pulled those requirements. As the pool of prospective employees grows, we can afford to be more selective with the quality of employee we hire. When i started with the agency, there was a line of applicants applying and only a handful were ever hired. As i began working for the agency, i became a recruiter for the agency. There was a steady line of people wanting jobs with the prison, but we could only hire the best we saw. I know that during the last legislative session, Mr. Livingston and the board all worked hard to try to secure TDCJ staff members a raise. And i think it came out ok. We were the only state agency to get a significant raise. During this tough time with the current economy, that came out ok. "

BG: So where are we now on the containment of contraband within the agency after the death row episode?

Cooper: " I think we are gaining ground. Contraband was an issue back in 1978 when i started, and it will continue to be an issue throughout time. We had no issues with cell phones back then of course, but we had issues too. As long as there is a market for it, it will get in. The issue was there before the inmate on death row called senator Whitmire, it just wasn't in the papers. We have been fighting it for some time. We have changed some of the rules regarding shakedowns of employees as they enter our facilities now. Most units have gone to a random shakedown mode. Those units were shown to have had smaller amounts of contraband items found, and it really wasn't feasible to continue to staff those positions full time. Some of the units that have had more contraband activity have kept their entry shakedown positions in tact. We have given our regional directors and wardens more lead way to act as they see fit in these situations. I think the current push for cell phone blocking technology is a good one. If we can successfully block the signals, it makes them useless. But thats in the hands of legislators and the lobbyist for the cell phone companies at this point. We have also been looking at more sophisticated means of detection. Body scanners, x-ray machines and other items. The legislature has assisted us with these items. "

BG: When we interviewed Chairman Bell with TBCJ, we mentioned the possibility of creating an employee forum of some sort to meet with board members, and TDCJ administrators on a regular basis to talk about safety, and security issues within their regions. He was receptive. Whats your take?

Cooper: "That kind of goes along the lines of us speaking to classes at the sergeant's academy, and Lieutenant's command schools. We solicit information from them on where the agency is at, and what needs to be addressed in their regions, and on their units. We get a lot of useful information during these classes. But to answer your question, yes, i think that would be a good idea. "

BG: We hear rumors that you may be contemplating retirement, is that true?

Cooper: "Well, i have the time, and the age to look really hard at it. I have had a successful career with the agency, and i have no regrets, or bad feelings about my work here. I have to say that i would look at other options for employment if they presented themselves. I am young enough to retire here and still work somewhere else for awhile. I have been in corrections for most of my life, and there wouldn't be much in the way of that. I quit TDCJ early on and went to work in the oil fields in the 80's but that didn't work out so i came right back. I kid around around with my family and say that maybe i will get a job as a Wal-mart greeter so that the only big decision i have to make all day long is what isle i have to do clean-up on when theres a spill. "

Texas inmate first to try new death concoction

 By Max Rodriguez, Backgate Website

 Cleve Foster, 47, is scheduled to die Tuesday evening for the slaying of a Sudanese woman abducted and shot after she met Foster and another man at a Fort Worth bar nine years ago. Foster will be the first Texas offender to be put to death using a new drug. Texas, along with some other states have had to substitute pentobarbital in the place of sodium thiopentalin the deadly three drug death mixture due to the virtual elimination of pentobarbital by its makers.

Foster's attorneys filed an appeal Monday and also asked Governor Rick Perry for a one time 30-day reprieve so thst the legality of the new drug could be debated. The debate being,  pentobarbital is the drug commonly used in veterinary euthanasia when animals are put down. The Danish maker of the drug has expressed displeasure with the current usage of the drug, but has not slowed production.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

TDCJ Employees to pay for state housing maintenance and utilities costs

 By Tonya Peters, Backgate Website

UPDATE: 04/10/11

Senate approves modified version of the bill. Flat 20% of market value approved to be implemented. Refer to our Backgate post here for more information .  Click Here !

Under an amendment approved by the ledge, House Corrections Committee Chairman Jerry Madden, R-Richardson, said House Bill 2404 is designed to address a growing issue over state employees who live rent-free in state housing, or at hefty discounts, and pay no local property taxes.Under the new amendment state employees will be required to pay for all utilities and maintenance upkeep on the dwellings.

For many TDCJ employees, housing came and was offered as part of the jobs they promoted into. A perk that enticed them to prison units out in the middle of no where where in some cases housing of equal size is not afforded in the community. Or may be over priced. In some prison locations, such in TDCJ's Region III, some housing is badly maintained and falling down. To maintain or to provide heating and cooling to these un-insulated structures would cost thousands. With the only true perk gone that enticed employees and supervisors into areas of the state that already couldn't attract staff, this may be the final blow.

When signed, the amendment would begin affecting employees in October of 2011. If employees fail to pay the required fees, they are subject to evictions.  Look for a mass exodus from state housing areas soon.