" I have used every tool available to draw attention and seek TDCJ's total
commitment to a zero tolerance on contraband items, from conducting hearings,
working with the Finance Committee on funding and direct appeals to the individuals
who run the prison system. At the end of the day it is up to Oliver Bell, along with
the other governor's appointees and Brad Livingston to fix the problem and run
In this story we spoke to Texas Board of Criminal Justice Chairman Oliver Bell, who is no stranger to the Backgate. Employees brought up issues with the lack of real documented training and consistency in using Xray machines and walk through metal detectors to scan employees entering some selected TDCJ units.. We showed him the statement made by Senator Whitmire and asked him what his thoughts were on the issues. He had this to say.
" First let me say that the majority of your co-workers in the TDCJ are exceptional people who are dedicated to accomplishing their job in the safest most efficient manner possible each day and for this they deserve the thanks of all Texans." " Security training, as well as training in a number of other areas, is an ongoing and sustained process that touches many areas of our operations. Security training is not a static onetime event. It also includes pre-service, in-service, and training on new equipment and search procedures that occur during the course of day-to-day operations."
" TDCJ employees have excelled in pat searches, wand searches, monitoring traditional walk through detection devices and at some locations have recently been trained and exposed to new equipment and technology to help further identify and stop contraband." "Training on the operation of the security monitoring equipment has been provided by vendor representatives directly to front line staff at appropriate facilities. This staff in turn has served as trainers on the units to teach their fellow staff members. It is this training that helps us operate effectively and also learn more about the operation of specific equipment. This subsequently allows the staff to look for other opportunities to enhance our security operations." " I do not know anyone on the TDCJ leadership or any member of the organization that would not seek ways to improve security and implement those ideas whenever operationally or financially possible." "These procedures helped us intercept over 400 cell phones last year before they reached offenders. Further we have the lowest cell phone infiltration rate of any large corrections system in the nation. That is still not good enough because our goal is to have none." "While our staff continues to screen, some people continue to test us. When they are caught we make every effort to use the law to our best advantage to discourage crimes of this type. We are not giving up or giving in, and I thank your co-workers for all their efforts." "The bottom line is, while we will never be satisfied as long as any contraband reaches the offender population, search procedures and security equipment are clearly having an impact. The number of cell phones found in Texas prisons has declined. The agency leadership is open to any suggestions or ideas on how we can be more effective to the benefit of the public safety of Texans." Oliver J. Bell Chairman, Texas Board of Criminal Justice
That being said, join us next time for the actual numbers on contraband seizures
statewide as supplied by TDCJ and compare them with those of three years ago. Find
out what the largest TDCJ employee union has to say about those numbers.
(In all fairness to the agency, while researching information for this story via open
records requests, it was determined that training was conducted on the xray machines
and metal detectors on most of the units polled, although that training was not always
documented. To date there is still no training supplied within the curriculum at yearly
Officer inservice or pre-service classes.)