Friday, October 28, 2011

San Antonio cop killer finally gets date with needle

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Former San Antonio street gang member Frank Garcia was executed Thursday evening for fatally shooting a veteran police officer who was trying to resolve a domestic dispute that also left Garcia's wife dead.

The 39-year-old Garcia repeatedly shouted "Hallelujah" and "Thank you Yahweh!" and loudly rambled and sang. "For this reason I was born and raised," he shouted, raising his head off the death chamber gurney pillow. "Thank you for this miracle you are performing in my life. My God is holy, holy, holy. Hallelujah!"

See full story here !

Monday, October 24, 2011

Question: Is agency Corruption on the rise ?

1. How many employees on your unit, by numerical percentages, would you say are corrupt in one manner or another ? Corruption meaning ; Introduction of contraband, relationships with offenders, etc.

2. Over the past ten years, do you think the agency has slowed any of the corruption ? 

Post your comments below, but remember, no individual names please or your post will be deleted. Your comments may be used in an upcoming feature report here, and could be included in an outside media story by TV and or print media. If you wish to contact us anonymously with detailed information, or want to be included by name in the story, email us at

Connally Officer Arrested

TDCJ Correctional Officer Guillermo Martinez, 23, was arrested in August at the John B. Connally state prison unit in Kenedy after a search of his vehicle produced an undisclosed amount of marijuana.

Martinez was arrested on felony charges of bribery and possession of a prohibited substance on a correctional facility.

The bribery charge is a second degree felony and can carry a sentence of between two and twenty years in prison and could carry up to a $10,000 fine.

The possession of a prohibited substance on a correctional facility charge is a third degree felony and can carry a sentence of between two and ten years in prison and could carry a fine of up to $10,000.

The case is still under investigation by the Office of the Inspector General. OIG is an internal law enforcement organization used by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to investigate criminal activity committed by prison inmates or personnel while inside of a correctional facility.

Martinez was released on bond pending further legal action.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Texas House Criminal Justice Committee member Marisa Marquez to join the Backgate for Q & A session

State Representative Marisa Marquez
By Duane Stuart, Backgate Website 

State Representative Marisa Marquez (D), District 77 (El Paso) will  sit down with the Backgate to answer questions about Texas criminal justice policy and questions regarding our Texas prisons. If you have a question that you would like Ms. Marquez to address, please email us at and let us know. We may present it to her as part of the interview.

Representative Marisa Marquez was elected to represent HD-77 in 2008. A community relations manager for Texas Community Care and teacher of theology at the Tepeyac Institute under the Diocese of El Paso, she was elected by the Legislative Study Group House Caucus as the ex officio board member to represent the freshman class on the LSG board, and as such is the only freshman on the LSG Executive Committee. She is also a member of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus and sits on the House Corrections, County Affairs, and Rules & Resolutions committees.

Marquez attended El Paso schools and graduated as valedictorian from Faith Christian Academy in 1996. She earned her bachelor's degree in Business Administration in Finance and Business Economics in 2000 from University of Notre Dame.

In 2000 Marquez returned to El Paso as an Americorps VISTA Volunteer for the non-profit agency, ACCION-Texas. She completed a year of service and subsequently became a grants administrator for the El Paso Empowerment Zone Corporation in 2001. In 2002, she returned to the University of Notre Dame to continue her higher education and received a master's degree in Theology in 2004.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

How would you rate the current TDCJ promotional system ?

By Backgate Staff,

It's always been a hot topic, and now here's your chance to sound off. How do you rate the promotional system now in place for the agency ? Is it fair ? Are there enough qualified applicants to fill the positions? Why would you promote or choose not to promote ? How do you view your current administration ? Our Backgate site poll reflected that most people now employed with TDCJ would not ever consider promoting within the agency. Others were still unsure. Post your comments below, but post no specific names in your comments please. You may use unit names. We are looking forward to hearing from you.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Current Training May Leave New Officers More Vulnerable

By Tracy E. Barnhart, 
Backgate Contributing Author

Below are but a few of the findings that will be included in an assessment of training in the U.S. and the United Kingdom that has been conducted across the last 3 years by the Force Science Institute. 

Wherever they are based, if officers are unprepared to meet the various threats and levels of resistance and violence they face, it can impair their ability to make good judgments, to affect control, and to avoid injury or death to himself or herself. This fact in itself leads to the excessively high turnover rates among correctional agencies. Therefore, if I were to give some advice to a new officer what would be some things that I would want to know that would give me a better chance of success.
  • The average officer within months of leaving an academy will be able only to describe how a given suspect-control technique should be used but will have “little ability” to actually apply it effectively in “a dynamic encounter with a defiantly resistant subject.”
  • At the rate academy and in-service training is typically delivered, it could take the average Corrections Officer up to 45 years to receive the number of hours of training and practice in command-and-control and officer-safety techniques that a young student athlete gets through practice and education in competitive sporting events during the usual high school career.
  • Many Correctional training programs are not employing modern research-based methods of successfully teaching psychomotor skills, a shortcoming compounded by the fact that current record-keeping fails to capture even the most elementary relevant information about the dynamic nature of real-world assaults on officers.
“I would say, Jump on this website and start reading and educating yourself!”

Take into consideration the amount of practice that you do involving your agency response to resistance techniques. If your agency is like mine, that would be about eight hours per year during recertification, at slow speeds, with your partner acting a specific way. That would be like asking a martial arts instructor to give you a black belt worth of knowledge but he could only train you eight hours per year. Most instructors that I know would laugh at you and walk away. However, your administration, community and court systems expect that level of expertise from you as it relates to your use of force incidents. You are expected to win, not get hurt, and not hurt the inmate. Not one of us would bet $5 on a football game in which we knew that the quarterback only had practiced with the ball only one time in the past year.

Remember those terms in previous articles, Reasonable, Excessive and liability? Are you confident in your ability to be reasonable? How about your ability restraining an inmate while you are being video taped and not being excessive? Will you use the techniques properly and as instructed or will you write in your reports that you Attempted the proper agency technique only to have to abandon the maneuver during the restraint and do something else that actually works?

Training shortcomings that threaten survival

Any departmental self-defense techniques need to have a two-pronged approach;

  1. Having techniques that allow an officer to enact the strategy of advancing from one position into a more dominating one {positional moves.}
  2. Those techniques that allow an officer to finish a fight quickly and efficiently {submission moves.}
We run into problem with administrations attempting to water down martial arts techniques in order to alleviate the pain aspect of their maneuvers. All techniques are by their nature Pain Compliance or Submission Techniques. If you take away the motivation of pain to establish voluntary compliance, then there will be no compliance with your commands in the mind of a defiant criminal. They must be shown, better yet feel, that if they voluntarily comply, the pain will stop, thereby giving them the motivation to obey your commands.

Officers and supervisors need to evaluate handling of real-life events with a critical eye. Do we have the skills and fortitude to recognize mistakes have been made and take corrective actions?

Consider the Navy Blue Angels flight team. At the end of every flight, there is a debriefing in which rank is taken off the table and every member can feel safe to do self-criticism or constructive criticism of another team member. Corrections need to adopt this same mentality where pre- and post-performance is evaluated with a critical eye, with the focus on improvement rather than castigation or discipline. The answers to these questions should be addressed:

  1. Is our self-protection techniques based in reality, work when used, and easy to apply?
  2. Do we need more training?
  3. How could we have prevented or avoided the violent incident from happening

Look out among the predators of the institution. Watch them as they do countless push-ups and train themselves into physical combatants in which you might someday have to physically restrain. Are you ready? Do you have the stamina to withstand an onslaught of punches in an all out assault until your back up arrives? It is one thing to look back ten years ago when you were in great shape and in a martial arts class three times a week. Look at yourself now. Are you as ready now, as you were then? One thing you have to consider when working in a prison setting. You are getting older everyday yet the average age of the inmates are staying steady at a young average. Inmates come in and get out and new young aggressive inmates fill their open beds. You however, get older, more and more out of shape everyday. This is why we must keep ourselves in shape and condition our bodies for combat. We walk among the predators of society without question. Our abilities must reflect our authority to tame these aggressive predators without question. 

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.

Tracy began assisting the Backgate in 2008 by submitting stories to us for publication to be viewed by our readers. He wanted Texas based Correctional Officers to benefit from his training articles and has submitted articles that were written with TDCJ Officers in mind. You can also see Tracy's work at where he maintains his own  training area !  Thanks Tracy.

Former Region III Food Service Supervisor arrested for bribery on Luther Unit

By Rosemary Smith, Navasota Examiner

From the Backgate ; Rachel Johnson previously held the same position in Region III at the Terrell and Clemens units. Some of you may recognize her from her mugshot photo (see link above).

Navasota Luther Unit food service manager II Rachel Lynn Johnson of Hempstead, 39, was arrested for bribery, a second-degree felony, and prohibited item in correctional facility, a third-degree felony, Sept. 30. Six months ago, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Office of Inspector General arrested former Navasota Wallace Pack Unit Correctional Officer III Brian J. Busse, then 21, for the same charges.

OIG Public Information Officer Jason Clark said a cell phone was discovered hidden under a sink during a routine prison cell check at the Luther Unit. Johnson allegedly admitted to bringing a cell phone and other prohibited items into the facility for an inmate after investigators linked the cell phone back to her.

Johnson, who served TDCJ for a total of 60 months and began employment at the Luther Unit Feb. 1, 2010, subsequently resigned in lieu of disciplinary measures, Clark said. Johnson was arrested at her residence by Waller County Sheriff's Office and transported to the Grimes County Jail. Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace John LeFlore issued the warrants and set bonds for Johnson at $7,500 cash or surety and $5,000 cash or surety, respectively. Johnson was bonded out by Navasota Bail Bonds that same day. March 21, Busse was charged with a second-degree felony charge for bribery and a third-degree felony charge for prohibited item in correctional facility. Clark said Busse allegedly brought a water bottle to the Wallace Pack Unit that contained alcohol and also allegedly agreed to bring in tobacco for an inmate.

Busse, who began his employment at the Pack Unit on Dec. 3, 2009, was then terminated.
Office of the Inspector General Criminal Investigator Jason Warren of TDCJ arrested Busse on March 21, at 7:15 p.m. Busse bonded out of Grimes County Jail at 9:20 p.m. that same day. LeFlore set both P.R. bonds for Busse at $2,500 for each charge, for a cumulative total of $5,000. LeFlore explained that the reason Busse was given P.R. bonds for the same charges Johnson is faced with is because "he was born and raised here. And he's still here. And the P.R. bonds were recommended by TDCJ."

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Alert Connally unit Officer stops contraband introduction during visitation


 KUDOS.....keep your eyes open out there!

Carmen Rios (30) from San Antonio was apprehended Saturday, Sept. 17, when she attempted to pass drugs to a TDCJ offender on the Connally Unit state prison near Kenedy.

Rios and her sister’s three small children entered the unit to visit her brother who is incarcerated there.

When in the visitation area Rios purchased three sandwiches from the vending machine.

Rios opened the packages and placed balloons holding marijuana inside of those sandwiches. She then gave them to a correctional officer to pass to her brother, a medium security offender, inside of the non-contact visitation area.

The alert correctional officer noticed that the package had been opened and determined that contraband had been placed inside.

A total of seven ounces of marijuana was found inside of fourteen balloons. An officer with the Office of Inspector General-TDCJ arrived and arrested Rios. She was then transported to Karnes County Jail and booked on charges of possession of a prohibited substance in a correctional facility. If convicted Rios could face two to ten years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine Rios charged with attempted drug smuggling.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Thousands of California inmates on hunger strike over "harsh" treatment

 Backgate Says:

Saw this at .. i find it absurd...

CNN) -- Thousands of California state prisoners, angry about what they call harsh treatment, have been on a hunger strike that enters its ninth day Tuesday.
There could be as many as 12,000 inmates skipping meals in at least eight California prisons, a prison advocacy group said. Many inmates are angry about a practice of keeping them in solitary confinement for too long, the group said.
"We are hoping that this widespread participation will push (prison officials) to negotiate and honor the basic demands of the people locked behind those walls," said Isaac Ontiveros, a spokesman for Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity. "You have people in there that have been in solitary confinement for 20 years. They just want to change their conditions."
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation released a statement last week saying it is "responding to a hunger strike disturbance by thousands of inmates in several correctional facilities."
Prison officials said it would punish inmates who were not eating and leaders of the strike will be removed "from the general population and be placed in an Administrative Segregation Unit."
The prisoners have made five demands which include a change in the prison policy that makes inmates go through an interrogation process where they have to incriminate themselves and identify other inmates who are involved in breaking rules in order to get out of solitary confinement. They are demanding an end to group lockdowns and want more privileges for those in solitary confinement, such as winter clothes and nutritious meals.
Prison officials have said that placing prisoners in segregation units, or solitary confinement, makes the facilities more safe and helps guards deal with gang violence.
The strike started on September 26 and is the second strike by prisoners this year. One in July lasted for weeks.
"Right now we are seeing nothing but crackdowns from the CDCR," said Ontiveros. "We are hoping that there will be some fruitful negotiations, but ironically they have threatened prisoners with more isolation."
Demonstrators have called a rally Wednesday outside the corrections department headquarters in Sacramento to express solidarity with the hunger strikers

Feds indict 23 Texas Syndicate gang members

Federal authorities Tuesday announced the indictment of 23 reputed Texas Syndicate gang members and associates on charges including four murders, drug trafficking and extortion.
Those charged are primarily in the Uvalde and Hondo areas, but the prison-born criminal group has members throughout the state.

Their alleged crimes were committed over the past nine years, according to the indictment, which details the structure and goals the gang, which is led by officers with ranks.
The indictment also delves into the gang's strict rules and penalties, including being killed, for going against the organization or disobeying orders.

"The (Texas Syndicate) will not hesitate to kill anyone who interferes with the business of the gang or who commits a violation of Texas Syndicate rules.

Among those charges under RICO, the acronym for Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization: Cristobal "Little Chris" Velasquez, 33, of Uvalde; Sotero Rodriguez Martinez "June", 41, of Uvalde; Chuco Mario "Mariachi" Martinez, 35, of Uvalde; Larry "Little Larry" Munoz, Jr.,36, of Uvalde; Brian "Tata" Esparza, 31, of Uvalde; Charles "Horse" Esparza, 32, of Uvalde; Ervey "Mad Max" Sanchez, 31, of Uvalde; Mark Anthony Vela, 35, of Hondo; Charles Olan Quintanilla, 32, of Hondo; George "Curious" Sanchez,36, of Uvalde; and, Inez "Bebito" Mata, 41, of Uvalde.
Others charged in the case are not accused of violating the RICO law.