Sunday, July 31, 2011

Wanna buy a prison ?

 From our friends over at Grits For Breakfast

One named after a former Texas Speaker of the House, no less? At 11 a.m. today you get your chance. Reports AP:

A prison that a Texas High Plains town hoped would provide a bonanza but instead went broke is going on the auction block.

Littlefield is putting the Bill Clayton Detention Center up for auction Thursday with a $5 million minimum opening bid. Tulsa, Okla.-based Williams & Williams Worldwide Real Estate Auction is handling the bidding. Its throwing in the furniture, linen, computers, kitchen supplies and other equipment contained in the 30-acre complex 36 miles northwest of Lubbock.

Littlefield built the 373-bed, medium-security prison with proceeds from an $11 million bond issue and signed The GEO Group to run it. The hope was for states experiencing prison overcrowding to pay to house its inmates there.

Instead, escapes, corruption and living conditions prompted states to withdraw their inmates, leaving an empty prison.
In a story behind their paywall, the Dallas News reported that there were at least six interested buyers, including private prison firms and "other municipalities needing more space for inmates." (We may safely assume Lubbock isn't among them, since they've got a near-empty jail competing with the Littlefield facility.) Go here to bid or watch the auction online.

click HERE for the entire article !

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Correctional Mandatory Overtime = Sleep Deprivation

By Tracy Barnhart, 
Backgate Contributing Author 

Remember that one little question on your application process that stated, “Are you able to work mandatory overtime” and you marked yes because you were excited to get into the system and started on your chosen career?  Looking back do you ever wish you would have marked NO?  In no other profession is there such a high turnover rate requiring so much forced or mandatory overtime on its personnel.  It was not uncommon for the entire third shift officers to be mandated to stay for the entire first shift 5 days a week making for an 80 hour work week.  40 plus hours of overtime a pay period was the normal not the unusual and after a while you began to hate telephone calls after 4:00 in the morning.  I always wondered what the effects of the daily stress and forced overtime did to a body.

From shift to shift the correctional officer is tasked with policing this violent institutional subculture. Being subjected to this violent subculture on a daily basis is a stressor in the career and life of a correctional officer. These stressors can cause the correctional officer to experience more health issues, have a shorter life span and on average die at an earlier age than the average worker.  Stress is not only harmful to the stressed officer or correctional worker but is also difficult to the profession and to the lives of others working in the institution. Burned-out officers frequently loose interest in their jobs, become passive instead of active in carrying out post and institutional orders, and let things inmates do, go without consequence. Thus harmful incidents may occur that could have been avoided if handled properly from the beginning.

Stress is not always a direct association of the inmate population. Other byproducts of the profession can cause stress and impair functioning of the correctional officer. Shift Lag is one of these byproducts. Shift Lag is when the stress and physiological fatigue of shift work causes one to become irritable, experience impaired performance, and a feeling of being hypnotic both on the job and in personal affairs

In a study published recently in the British journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, researchers in Australia and New Zealand report that sleep deprivation can have some of the same hazardous effects as being drunk.  Getting less than 6 hours a night can affect coordination, reaction time and judgment, posing “a very serious risk.” Drivers are especially vulnerable, the researchers warned. They found that people who drive after being awake for 17 to 19 hours performed worse than those with a blood alcohol level of .05 percent. That’s the legal limit for drunk driving in most western European countries, though most U.S. states set their blood alcohol limits at .1 percent and a few at .08 percent.

Many correctional professionals will attest that sleep deprivation from shift work may lead to occurrences that jeopardize not only themselves, but also other officers and inmates. Fatigue from long shifts can reduce attention to detail, affecting critical thinking and performance. Although sleep is not cumulative, sleep deprivation is. The more hours a person works, the longer it takes to complete a task. More mistakes are made, and alertness is markedly decreased.  In addition to reduced efficiency, sleep deprivation slows down recovery processes and impairs host defenses, increasing susceptibility to infection. It influences the potential for developing other disorders as well. In particular, losing sleep heightens the risk for type II diabetes, moodiness, and obesity.  All these ailments will in turn lead to more call offs and more need for mandatory overtime. 

Shift working correctional officers affected by sleep deprivation experience a greater incidence of diarrhea, constipation, ulcers, and heartburn.  As if this were not enough, their risk of cardiovascular disease is increased by 30 to 50 percent. Women shift workers are more vulnerable to reproductive problems, from disrupted menstruation and difficulty conceiving, to miscarriages and premature births.  For example, 55% on midnights showed “elevated waist circumference,” more than double the percentage found in the other 2 shifts. Half had sub-desirable levels of “good” cholesterol, compared to 30% on days and 44% on afternoons, and 25% had high blood pressure, compared to 15% on days and 9% on afternoons.

Getting six or fewer hours of sleep each night is just like being drunk. Consider that most the legal blood alcohol content is .08. When you’ve been up for 18 hours, studies show that you function as if your blood alcohol content were .07. After 24 hours without sleep, you’re at 0.1 the same as a drunk driver. Now picture yourself after a 16 hour mandated overtime from third shift to first.  At that point, you’re fighting sleepiness, you’re more irritable, and you have increased risk of accidents both at work and while driving. That is when you see people drinking a lot of caffeinated beverages, popping out of their chairs at work more, using physical activity to keep themselves awake.

So administrators you now have to calculate more than the financial cost of forced or mandatory overtime at your facilities.  What would a legal suit bring against your agency for an auto accident following an officers 16 hour shift of mandatory overtime?  What about the obvious policy violations overlooked by sleepy officers on the pod?  Inmates love staff shortages because they then know that there will be a new officer working their unit, who does not necessarily care what happens as long as the shift goes off without a major incident.  Staff shortages and mandatory overtime may be the number one complaint in corrections.  It is like a revolving door happening, the more overtime within an agency the more call offs it creates, the more staff resignations and unplanned illnesses you have.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Curious Sentence of Convict #86388

 By Jim Willett, Texas Prison Museum

There are many infamous inmates in the long history of the Texas prison system. Then there are those whom the public has most likely never heard of whose story is interesting. The story of convict Dorothy Thompson is out of the ordinary, but my bet is that most folks today know nothing of it. Here is her story.

Dorothy Thompson entered the Texas Prison System on October 6, 1937 as convict #86388, doing two years for forgery. She turned herself in as a voluntary surrender at the Huntsville Prison, went through processing there where she received her prison number. Convict Thompson was 5’ 6” and weighed 174 pounds, with auburn hair, blue eyes, with fair skin. Records indicate that she had three small scars, one being from an appendix surgery.

She was 29 years old. Her former job was listed as house-keeper. Dorothy admitted to drinking and smoking cigarettes. She was transferred the same day to the Goree State Farm for women. A trusty drove the vehicle over with Dorothy in the front seat and a guard in the back. Upon arriving at the Goree prison, she was turned over to Mrs. Heath, wife of the Goree captain (warden), M. V. (Marcus) Heath.

Click here for the entire article !  

And Visit the Texas Prison Museum in Huntsville Texas. Click above for link to site !

Monday, July 18, 2011

Twisted sisters of the Aryan brothers



Fraught with a wild temper unleashed by a wicked methamphetamine addiction, April Flanagan was sent to prison just months ago for conspiring to help blow the heads off a disgraced Aryan gang member and his girlfriend in East Texas. The order came from an Aryan Brotherhood of Texas leader who wanted the man "in intensive care or dead by midnight." Across the state in Lubbock, Chasity Clark is accused of helping her husband, a general in an arm of the same gang, run an organized criminal enterprise and ditching gang computer files before police could confiscate them.

But neither can compare to Tanya Smith, whose Bonnie-and-Clyde-like run with her man began in Houston and ended with two police detectives killed, the boyfriend shot dead, and Smith serving life in prison. Prosecutors contend the three women are part of the little-known world of "featherwoods," a nickname often worn with audacious pride as they live and die in the trenches of "white-boy gangs."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

TDCJ's top cop to retire in August after years in Legislative hot seat

Inspector General John Moriarty

By Max Rodriguez, Backgate Website 

August 31st marks a milestone for TDCJ Office of Inspector General (OIG) boss John Moriarty. The date will signal his retirement. Moriarty, who was often in the hot seat in front of legislative committees and other groups over the past few years over everything from employee corruption to contraband issues will make way for another undetermined predecessor. Job postings for Moriarty's position have since closed and news of interviews for the position have not been announced as of yet.

In October of 2008 Texas state Senator John Whitmire received a call from inside of the Texas death row. Offender Richard Tabler stated that a Correctional Officer brought in the cell phone in exchange for $2,100.Tabler is said to have threatened Whitmire and his family in the call. Whitmire stated during a hearing on that matter that same month that if TDCJ couldn't take care of the issues of cell phones in Texas prisons that he would.

Inmate Richard Tabler
Whitmire, who had since grown frustrated with the OIG leader after hearings were conducted in June of 2008 regarding the corruption probe at the Region III Terrell prison unit in Rosharon, lashed out often at the OIG.  A hearing brought about by the report launched by this website. Moriarty may have been thrust unjustly into the spotlight as other factors such as a lack of established TDCJ policies, and the lack of outside criminal prosecution hampered efforts to deter employee misconduct within the agency. The situation not being unlike plugging a hole a the crumbling dike with only your middle finger. Moriarty's replacement will be immediately introduced into a system of continued widespread corruption and a measurable shortage of available OIG investigators to investigate those cases. 

We wish whoever that assumes the helm at OIG luck.  The next few years will undoubtedly be the roughest the agency has seen in awhile if employee corruption cases continue to rise. 

See more TDCJ related videos at our " Behind the Backgate" area HERE

Saturday, July 9, 2011

U.S. prisons scrambling to find another drug to carry out executions

COLUMBUS, Ohio — States not only are having an increasingly difficult time getting the injectable drugs to carry out death sentences, they're also paying as much as 10 times more for the chemicals as in years past.
Ohio only has 40 grams of pentobarbital, enough for seven executions scheduled through February, meaning a likely scramble to find enough for the four scheduled beyond that.
Texas, with the country's busiest death chamber, says it has enough for eight more executions but won't comment on supplies past September.
It used the drug Thursday night for the execution of Mexican national Humberto Leal for the 1994 rape-slaying of a 16-year-old girl in San Antonio, despite White House pleas for a Supreme Court stay.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Is Dow Chemical Company eying 2200 acres of TDCJ property in Rosharon ?

 By Michael Williams, Backgate Website

In a house bill (HB 2004)  recently presented by Lake Jackson (district 25)  state representative Dennis Bonnen and passed in the legislature, 2200 acres of state prison property adjacent to the Stringfellow prison unit in northern Brazoria county will be up for sale to the highest bidder. The property in question includes the TDCJ unit river clubhouse that is used by employees and their families for recreation. The property borders the Brazos river and the Harris resevoir. Land adjacent to the 2200 acres is already owned by Dow Chemical Company. Although TDCJ will not reveal just who the new owners may be, Backgate insiders have obtained information through solid sources that Dow Chemical is in fact seeking the property. TDCJ and Dow Chemical would not provide comment on the deal. Representative Bonnen, who began his 8th term in the house has served previously on the House Environmental Regulation Committee.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Released TDCJ video on Youtube implies Death Row inmate was mistreated

By Duane Stuart, Backgate Website

A newly released YouTube video that  depicts a Texas death row inmate as a victim of abuse at the Polunski prison unit  has surfaced recently and has drawn criticism from the general public.

What the anti-death penalty videographer based in Canada  failed to mention is that Cartwright was a major disciplinary based offender. He amassed a huge list of internal offenses to include assaulting prison staff during his stay on the Polunski death row.

Next time, it would behoove the videographer to include how he got to death row and what he did while there before posting negative information on the employees of the Polunski unit. His crime was never addressed in the video. Just the tapes with him as the star as he violated TDCJ rules. The execution of offender Cartwright has since been carried out.

Friday, July 1, 2011

TDCJ overtime pay-outs increase as staffing continues to decline

 By Doug Glass, Backgate Website

The Backgate reported on a story sometime back regarding the increased use of overtime within the agency and how a brand new staffing shortage is in fact upon us. Less recruits being hired, and increased numbers being fired or resigning have decreased the staffing numbers on prison units statewide. The use of voluntary and mandatory overtime for agency staff members has risen sharply over the past six months, and shows no sign of slowing. Many employees are happy to see it's return and are enjoying the extra pay checks. Many others state that they would rather continue overtime and work short as long as the agency rids the units of problematic and corrupt staff members.

From April 2011 to May of 2011 there was an increase of almost $168,000 paid out in overtime costs. The biggest jump seen in within the previous years time. 

The following numbers were supplied to the Backgate from the TDCJ financial services office and is reflective of the past six months of overtime money paid out to employees.

December 2010  - $433,429
January 2011      - $373,535

February 2011    - $308,163
March 2011        - $407,215

April 2011          - $400,579
May 2011           - $567,311

(note, overtime usage numbers include non-security staff members as well)