Tuesday, May 31, 2011

State Lawmakers Ordered Back To Work Today

By Chuck Lindell 
Austin American Statesman

With senators unable to broker a last-minute deal on school finance, the Texas Legislature gaveled the 82nd session closed Monday, followed quickly by Gov. Rick Perry calling legislators back for a special session to begin this morning.
Perry, who determines the agenda of special sessions, directed the Legislature to consider the school finance bill, which would reduce the amount owed to school districts by $4 billion, and a Medicaid measure.

Other issues could be added as early as today, and Republicans immediately began lobbying to include a laundry list of GOP priorities that fizzled during the regular session, including a ban on "sanctuary cities" and an effort to save grade schools money by allowing larger class sizes.
"It could get really interesting and contentious around here," said Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan.

See entire article here ~ 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

TDCJ Officer, Horse injured. Tracking dog killed during assistance call.

Liberty County Sheriff’s Office photo

From The Houston Chronicle

 Authorities are searching for three men, each apparently with an extensive criminal background, who led deputies on a short chase in a stolen vehicle in Liberty County Friday morning.
Liberty County sheriff's deputies received a call about a suspicious vehicle near FM 563 and CR 133 around 8 a.m. and determined the blue Toyota truck was stolen from Galveston County, authorities said.
One of the deputies spotted the truck and a short chase began, authorities said. The suspects — identified as Christopher Ryan Treece, 20; Chance Hunt, 19, and William Dale Perkins, 40 — drove the truck into the tree line, then fled into the trees and marshlands, authorities said.
Stolen items were found in the bed of the truck and inside the vehicle, authorities said.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Senior Criminal District Judge appointed to Texas Board of Criminal Justice

Judge Larry Gist
 From Criminal Justice Connections News

Governor Rick Perry in March announced the appointment of Judge Larry Gist of Beaumont to the Texas Board of Criminal Justice (TBCJ). He replaces Pastor Charles Lewis Jackson of Houston on the nine-member board which oversees the operations of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Judge Gist is a Senior Criminal District Judge in Beaumont and has served as a member and chairman of the Judicial Advisory Council, whose role is to advise the agency and TBCJ on matters of interest to the judiciary. He received a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Notre Dame and a J.D. from the University of Texas Law School. He is a frequent lecturer to local, state, national, and international groups and conferences on criminal law issues and has served on a variety of task forces, committees and boards addressing a range of legal issues.
Gov. Perry also announced the reappointments of Thomas Mechler of Amarillo and Leopoldo Vasquez III of Houston. All three appointments are for terms to expire February 1, 2017.

Monday, May 23, 2011

UPDATE : TDCJ releases charges sustained against terminated Region III Major

By Max Rodriguez, Backgate Website

As we stated in the below related article, we are updating the story with the following information as received from TDCJ. The below charges are those that were lodged against Major Julia Humphrey. OIG officials have stated that there is still an ongoing investigation involving Humphrey, but would not elaborate on just what the investigation entails. 

The sustained charges against Ms. Julia Humphrey are as follows:
Level 2, Number 20;
Violation of Statutory Authority/Court
Level 2, Number 20; 
Violation of Statutory Authority/Court
Level 2, Number 18c; 
Possession of Contraband Other than Those Listed in
Rule No. 18a

The actions taken against Ms. Julia Humphrey are as follows: 
Level 2, Number 20; Probation 8 Calendar Months (05-10-2011 to
Level 2, Number 20; Probation 12 Calendar Months (01-10-2012 to
01-09-2013), Suspension 10 calendar Days (05-17-2011 to 05-30-2011)
 Level 2, Number 18c; Dismissal Recommended

Ms. Humphrey’s job title is Major of Correctional Officers, Stringfellow
Unit; however, she has been relieved of duty pending the outcome of her
dismissal recommendation.

As per TDCJ Human Resources Headquarters via the Texas Open Records Act.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Embattled Region III Major terminated after lengthy internal investigation

 By Max Rodriguez, Backgate Website

 After almost a year of investigation, Region III Stringfellow Major Julia Humphrey was terminated after an internal OIG investigation proved wrongdoing. OIG records are being sought by the Backgate Website that will explain the actual charges that were proven against Humphrey.

Humphrey was removed from the Stringfellow unit after reports were launched by unit employees who allegedly witnessed violations of TDCJ policy as well as Texas law. Dozens of employee emails were sent to the Backgate Website regarding the misconduct which was alleged to have been ignored at the unit level. Those emails were then forwarded to TDCJ OIG. Two Stringfellow offenders who are said to have been retaliated against by Humphrey for also reporting the allegations were removed from the unit and sent to other prison units during the investigation. OIG investigators poured over evidence and followed up leads on the case for months. Some of which lead them to other parts of the state, and went back as far as five years.

Humphrey, who is the wife of TDCJ parole director Billy Humphrey, had been reassigned to the Region III office during the investigation still drawing her annual Major of Correctional Officers pay of $45,973.68.  There she is said to have assisted in routine administrative duties.  When we get the official charges that lead to the termination, we will update this story.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

UPDATED 05/20/11 - Senate confirms 102 year old prison will close before summers end

UPDATED 05/20/11

By Tonya Peters, Backgate Website
The Backgate has again confirmed through TDCJ that the Region III Central prison unit will be shut down completely by the end of summer. TDCJ Issued the below statement to the Backgate this morning. Employees will have until then to transfer to another prison facility or leave state employment. There was question as to whether or not the agency would be able to prolong the shutdown long enough to allow more time for employees to uproot their families and move to other facilities. That hope has faded as the legislature has set funding to end on the last day of August.

" The Legislature isn't going to fund the the operation of Central past August 31, 2011 " ~ Michelle Lyons, TDCJ Spokesperson 

The Senate and House have confirmed that budget negotiations have come to a close on the Central prison unit located in Sugarland. The unit which houses about 1,500 convicts and employs 300 will be shuttered by August 31, 2011, as stated by request of the first budget committee's directive. TDCJ has stated that employees will have the option of transferring to other surrounding facilities, retirement or loss of employment. The closure is said to save the state 50 million in tax payer dollars. Employees were hopeful that last minute negotiations with the Senate's version of the budget, which called for more rainy day fund money to be utilized,  would spare the facility but those hopes were dashed yesterday morning. The Backgate spoke with Senate Criminal Justice Committee chair John Whitmire (D) about the measure to close Central some weeks back. He stated to us that he is for any decision that would benefit employment in that area and public safety. The Acreage that Central is located on is highly sought after prime real estate and has a buyers already lined up to make offers on it. Sugarland community leaders as well as investors may have played a vital part in convincing state leaders to surrender the historic property. More to come..

Monday, May 16, 2011

As more elderly prisoners serve time, state officials struggle to pay their medical costs

Chronicle Pho
Backgate Says:

Should TDCJ set them free ???



A growing population of elderly inmates is driving up prison medical care costs to the point that some Texas lawmakers would like to see more of those who are feeble and chronically ill released early.
In the last decade, the number of inmates 55 and older has spiked as much as 8 percent each year, growing to about 12,500, while the general inmate population has remained fairly flat.
In prisons across the country, inmates grow old serving longer sentences and enter prison at an older age. Between 1999 and 2008, the number of inmates 55 and older in state and federal prisons increased by 76 percent to 76,400 inmates, according to the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. The general population grew by 18 percent.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Backgate Poll Question answered

Do you support the release of non-violent criminals from Texas prisons as a means of reducing prison overcrowding and saving money ?

YES 71 (68%)
NO   33 (31%)
 Texas prison workers and the general public have spoken ! What are some benefits, or concerns? Speak up in the comment section below.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Listening Skills in Corrections

By Tracy E. Barnhart, Contributing Backgate Author

One of the most significant things you can do to communicate effectively is what is called Active Listening. Some people say the fact that a person has two ears and one mouth illustrates that you should hear twice as much as you speak. One of the foundational keys to good listening is that the listener’s body language should demonstrate interest. Interest is communicated by facing the person, having good eye contact, responding with facial expressions and head nodding. The speaker will be able to see that you are listening and interested in what they are saying. We will review some of the principals, which will assist in sharpening your listening skills.

Listening in a stressful situation is not an easy function. One of the major reasons this is a challenge is because of the “GAP” problem. The average person speaks at a rate of approximately 125 words per minute. The average human mind can receive and analyze approximately 400 words per minute. So what does your mind do while it is receiving the 125 words from the sender? Daydream, think about your future plans as well as the past interactions with the individual, and of course, come up with its own stories to better the one that it is currently hearing. Good listening must be practiced and honed in order to become a professional skill.

Another key to effective listening is to know what the purpose of listening is. The purpose of listening is to gather information. It is not to give advice, not to throw in your own better story or information to establish dominance, or to judge what the person is saying. You want to obtain information in order to internalize the meaning. If you do anything else, which causes the speaker to stop talking, then active listening you started with has now ended. Once all the information has been communicated to you, then you can decide what to do with it and know better what they are attempting to relay. The following are barriers to effective listening:
  • JUDGMENT: Once a speaker feels judged by you they will stop talking therefore ending the relay of information. Regardless of how you feel, suspend your judgment until they are finished talking. They may give you more information than they ever intended too.
  • “ONE UP”: Even though you may have similar stories or experience with the plot do not tell them your part yet, just let the person talk. If you interject your personal information or experiences the person may feel judged and inadequate and stop talking.
  • ADVICE: If you immediately give advice the person most likely will stop communicating. Most speakers know what needs to be done or do already; they simply have a great need to be heard. Let them fulfill that need and within reason, vent.
  • JUMP TO CONCLUSIONS: Don’t jump to conclusions; let the speaker interject their own information until the conclusions.
  • FIX IT: If the speaker is having some difficulties in relaying the information don’t try to fix or hurry the relay. Let them talk it out.
  • THREATENING: When the speaker has done something questionable, don’t threaten, that’s a judgment. Keep your opinion out of the conversation until the right time to interject it, just let the person talk. Threats or aggression will shut down open communication.
The following are what you can do to enhance your listening skills:
  • As mentioned before demonstrate supportive non-verbal cues which show interest. You really want to hear what the speaker has to say. You believe that what the speaker has to say is important to them and you want to help with whatever problem he / she has.
  • Because of the gap problem, you must concentrate and focus on what the speaker is saying. Listen for key words and phrases; oftentimes a person will bring up points and issues, which are important to them and maybe even important to your investigation.
  • Once those key words and phrases are expressed, identify the mood and intensity of them. Statements are made with varying intensity. High intensity statements may be danger signs. You genuinely accept his / her feelings, whatever they are, and you have confidence in the speaker’s capacity to eventually find a solution.
  • Keep the individuals talking: Remember, as the person is talking you are gathering valuable information. Paraphrase what the speaker has said to be sure that you fully understood what they were relaying and ask questions only when you have to. The person who is asking questions is controlling the conversation and if the speaker feels controlled then they may stop talking.
There are many skills that can be used in listening to others. As you have learned, your non-verbal behavior tells other people a great deal about your willingness to communicate with them. There are five key behaviors that will communicate to others that you are open to hearing what they have to say and that you are listening to them. A way to remembering these key behaviors are to think of the acronym S.P.E.A.R.
  • S: Remember your STANCE when talking to another person. This means that your shoulders should be turned slightly away from the other person. Keep your weapons side away from the individual, especially when closing the gap and moving into their body space.
  • P: Have an open POSTURE. This means that your arms are not crossed in front of you, and that if you are sitting that your legs are not crossed as well. You are standing in front of the other person in the ready position. Hands are used to gesture or are comfortably clasped together.
  • E: Have good EYE contact. Good eye contact is the key to effective communications. You should look directly at the person when the other person is speaking and when you are responding. Looking around and looking away sends the message that you are not interested.
  • A: ATTENTIVE behavior. Weight is on the front portion or balls of the feet, assertively digesting the information that the individual is relaying.
  • R: RELAX. Be yourself. As you learn this skill, it may be difficult to relax because you are concentrating on the new behaviors in yourself while watching theirs, but with practice and repetition it will become easier. It is important that you be yourself and relaxed in your encounters with other people. Interacting with citizens and inmates in a relaxed, calm manner will eventually elicit a like response within the other person. 
About Tracy:

     After completion of a Marine Corps combat tour of duty in Iraq in 1991, I completed the National Registry requirements as an Emergency Medical Technician. I responded to calls of emergency medical nature for over three years until I became a police officer for the City of Galion, Ohio. I attended the Ohio State Highway Patrol Academy where I attained my Ohio Peace Officers Certification. After three years on patrol I was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant where I was in command of the patrol first shift motivating, stimulating and educating over 10 patrol officers under my supervision. I established active community oriented policing concepts and strategies that promoted a stronger law enforcement / community relationship. Later leaving the City of Galion I was hired as the Chief of Police for the City of Edison, Ohio for the next three years. With a total of ten years experience in a law enforcement capacity I changed careers leaping into the realm of corrections where I am currently employed at the Marion Juvenile Correctional Facility and have been since its inception in 2000.

     I have attended countless continuing educational courses through the P.A.T.C., Ohio Peace Officers Training Academy and the Ohio State Highway Patrol which most I have paid for out of my own pocket. I am the Law Enforcement coordinator the Tri-Rivers Public Safety Adult Education where I coordinate and conceive new continuing educational courses for law enforcement and correctional officers.  I have established courses on verbal de-escalation, Criminal behavior analysis, Use of force, and ground fighting and take down techniques for law enforcement.  I am currently training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to further my knowledge and survival combative base so that the information and techniques I instruct are tested and proven to work.  I not only train proven techniques in the academy, I test them on a daily basis inside my facility.

Friday, May 6, 2011

$3.5 Billion suit filed against state comptroller for release of sensitive information

 By Tonya Peters, Backgate Website

Attorney Muhammad Aziz

The Houston Chronicle reported this morning that an attorney has filed the suit as a class action on behalf of the 1.2 million state of Texas employees, to include TDCJ, that were affected by the leak of everything from home addresses, and social security numbers.

"We are seeking the $1,000 statutory penalty for each of these individuals whose privacy was violated by the Comptroller," said attorney Muhammad Aziz, of the Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto and Friend law firm. The named plaintiff is Sherry A. McClung, a Lufkin school teacher stated the Chronicle.

Susan McCombs, the Texas comptroller, has stated that she is deeply sorry for the mistake that left the information online for viewing for over a year, and says that changes have been made to prevent it from happening again.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Texas prison workers accused of romance with sex convicts

 The Backgate Says:

This story only scratches the surface. It's so widespread around the state and seems so common even with Officers and Offenders that it's almost  "normal " and accepted. A sign that the agency has somehow taken a true turn for the worse over the past 10 years. Where will it end ?

By Stephen Dean

(Huntsville) -- Texas prison leaders are crediting alert employees for halting romantic relationships between three prison workers and inmates who were undergoing sex offender counseling, Local 2 Investigates reported on Sunday.
"Any time you get that closeness, it's a threat to the institution," said the prison system's Inspector General John Moriarty.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice
confirmed this week that all 3 employees resigned when confronted with evidence of the improper relationships with prisoners since June 2009.   They have been flagged as ineligible for rehire by the prison system.

See entire story here !