As the first part of an upcoming series of stories, the Backgate once again called upon Texas State Senator John Whitmire for his thoughts on the continuing contraband issues plaguing the agency. We asked Whitmire what his thoughts were on the current state of TDCJ's contraband interdiction policy, and detailed to him just how the agency was handling those issues. Over the past few months the Backgate has received numerous emails detailing the usage, or mis-usage, of the recently added walk through metal detectors and X-ray machines that were added at several TDCJ facilities. Not to scan inmates, but to scan incoming prison staff as they enter those facilities.
Staff detailed the added responsibility in being the Officer charged with doing the entry searches on their co-workers, how the searches could be biased, and how many items may be slipping in to the prisons due to employees misreading the X-ray scanners and not doing proper searches. Although TDCJ doesn't specify through record keeping just how many employees have been disciplined for failure to properly search incoming employees, judging by the number of employees polled, many have been in recent months. TDCJ introduced the added security of walk through metal detectors and X-ray machines after Senate hearings determined that enough wasn't being done to take on employee corruption and introduction of contraband. Hearings conducted after this website reported issues with corruption on a Region III unit that ended in terminations, arrests, and lockdowns in 2008.
|Senator John Whitmire|
After being briefed on the current system of searching employees, training issues, and seeing the newest numbers on contraband entry into State Prisons, Whitmire stated :
" 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
Whitmire stated that he would continue to monitor how the agency detects contraband
and stated that he was not aware of the issues presented by the employees. In upcoming
articles in this series, see Texas Board of Criminal Justice chairman Oliver Bell's response
to the remarks made by Whitmire, and get his take on the current state of the agency that he
was appointed to ultimately oversee as he speaks to the Backgate. Also, see the numbers on
contraband seizures statewide. Have the numbers dropped, or have they risen ?