Monday, December 26, 2011

Longest serving TX prison inmate paroled after 60 years

 From our friends over at the Grits for Breakfast Blog;

Via Michael Graczyk at AP, Texas' longest serving inmate has finally been paroled, at age 83:

When Harvey Stewart first went to prison 60 years ago, gasoline was 20 cents a gallon, a postage stamp cost three pennies and Harry Truman was president.

Now, as perhaps one of the longest-serving inmates in US history, the convicted killer is looking forward to the perks of freedom when he is released on parole in the coming weeks or months.

An IPod or cell phone perhaps? Not for this 83-year-old. Stewart simply wants a root beer and a good meal.

"Imagine that! Sixty years being down in this damn hole," Stewart recently told The Associated Press from the Beto Unit in East Texas, one of his many stops in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. "I wouldn't recommend it. Man's a damn fool to even stick his foot in here."

Stewart, awaiting his release to a halfway house or nursing home after being granted parole earlier this year, recalled his youthful days of robbing brothels in Southeast Texas for quick $3,000 pay days, of getting shot in the back while holding up a junk yard and murdering a man in what he insists was a self-defense killing.

But the six decades in prison haven't been nearly as eventful. He counts among his highlights his brief escape in 1965 and a recurring headache from a prison van wreck a couple years ago. Besides those short-lived respites from monotony, Stewart has served his time isolated from the outside world. He doesn't recall receiving a single visitor in more than a decade. He's outlived most or all his immediate family.

His parole was approved in April, with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles considering his recent history of good behavior, his age and declining health.

"I'm too damn old to do any robbing," said Stewart, his blond hair now a balding gray brush cut. "I think I am anyway. My old ticker might kick out on me."

Stewart is the longest-serving inmate among the 155,000 prisoners in the Texas system, though it's unclear if he is the nation's longest-serving inmate now or ever. Prison officials and historians say they're unaware of any agency or organization that keeps track of all inmates' jail time.
Suffice it to say if AP could find nobody currently in an American prison who'd served longer than this fellow, that's a pretty remarkable statement. Imagine the difficulties associated with leaving prison alone in the world at 83 years old! At least they're facilitating some transition stage via a halfway house. I can't fathom what it would be like to enter an alien, new world with no support after so long behind bars. His crimes were committed before President Kennedy was assassinated, before Hawaii was a state, before Sputnik launched, before Kruschev said, "We will bury you" - before Elizabeth II became Queen of England, for heaven's sake.

Now that Texas has hundreds of inmates serving life without parole sentences (an option only available since 2005), our grandkids will see prisoners serving longer sentences, even, than Mr. Stewart. These prisoners will stay in that "damn hole" until they die, but, does that really make sense? Does anybody think Texas would be safer keeping Stewart and other so-called "lifers" in prison to the bitter end? The biggest complicating factor from LWOP is who pays for end-of-life care: Parole elderly offenders and the federal government picks up most of the tab via Medicaid and Medicare. Keep them in prison and their end-of-life care is paid for out of state general revenue funds, except the Legislature didn't allocate enough.

Without knowing the details, it seems that young Mr. Stewart at 23 was a dangerous man traveling a bad road. But did Mr. Stewart at 65, 70, 80 years of age, pose the same threat? What do you think? Would justice have been better or worse served if he'd been released a decade or so ago when he still had family alive? Would the price of his atonement have seemed any less devastating? Would the public be any less safe?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Region III Darrington Senior Warden and Employees spread holiday cheer at local nursing home

Senior Warden Mark Jones  presents a gift- Photo from the Brazosport Facts

Kudos to the Darrington unit for supporting their community ! 

Story by the Brazosport facts

Darrington Unit Senior Warden Mark Jones from the Darrington Prison Unit, center, helps Don Yarborough open a gift Wednesday at Country Village Care in Angleton.....

See full story here !

Thursday, December 15, 2011

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE- It can affect us all

By Tracy E. Barnhart, Backgate Contributing Training Author

During my many years involved in law enforcement I have responded to thousands of domestic related incidents and been involved in countless family and live in partner mediations.  Calls of this nature are just a part of being a police officer.  Even police officers or correctional officers that cannot maintain a stable home environment for themselves and respond and perform outstandingly when called upon to mediate a dispute.  I have seen incidents from family arguments to an aggravated assault in which the husband struck his wife in the mouth with a hammer, resulting in perminate disfigurement to the female.  I hope that the following provides information that will assist you in your life from becoming a victim of domestic violence and assists you in recognizing behaviors exhibited by batterers. 

I always like to start out my articles with some facts and statistics and this article is not without some startling statistics so here we go;

  1. The chances of becoming a victim of sexual assault in your lifetime are one in three for females and one in six for males.
  2. Before the age of eighteen one in four girls and one in seven boys will be the victim of sexual assault. 
  3. The majority of all assaults occur in the home.
  4. The abuse is never the victim’s fault.  Whatever you did you did not deserve to be abused, battered or sexually assaulted.

Does your partner:
·         Embarrass you with put-downs?
·         Look at you or act in ways that scare you?
·         Control what you do, who you see or talk to or where you go?
·         Stop you from seeing your friends or family members?
·         Take your money or Social Security check, make you ask for money or refuse to give you money?
·         Make all of the decisions?
·         Tell you that you’re a bad parent or threaten to take away or hurt your children?
·         Prevent you from working or attending school?
·         Act like the abuse is no big deal, it’s your fault, or even deny doing it?
·         Destroy your property or threaten to kill your pets?
·         Intimidate you with guns, knives or other weapons?
·         Shove you, slap you, choke you, or hit you?
·         Force you to try and drop charges?
·         Threaten to commit suicide?
·         Threaten to kill you?

If you answered ‘yes’ to even one of these questions, you may be in an abusive relationship.


·         EMOTIONAL ABUSE: This includes any action, which causes loss of self-esteem, such as name calling, swearing, criticizing, using derogatory terms to describe the person, habitual scapegoat or blaming or any other be-littling words or actions, putting her down, making her think that she is crazy.

·         PHYSICAL: The inflicting of physical injury or pain upon another person.  This may include burning, hitting, punching, pinching, pushing, scratching, shaking, kicking, or otherwise harming the individual.  The partner may have not intended to hurt the other person but the injury was not an accident. This is not acceptable in any relationship.

·         PSYCHOLOGOCAL: This includes any action, which creates fear, such as isolation or threats, playing mind games.  Coercion and threats such as making and / or carrying out threats to hurt the other, threatening to leave or to commit suicide, make the significant other do illegal acts.  

·         SEXUAL: Sexual assaults are acts of violence where sex is used as the weapon.  Assaults are motivated primarily out of anger and or a need to feel powerful by controlling, dominating or humiliating the victim.  Victims of sexual assault are forced, coerced and or manipulated to participate in unwanted sexual activity.  Victims do not cause the assault and are not to blame.  Told anti-women jokes or make demeaning remarks about women or criticized you sexually or even withhold sex and affection.

Many victims and even parents and friends of victims that I have come in contact with are always interested in signs and ways to predict if they are going to become involved with someone who is physically abusive.  Usually battering occurs between a man and a woman, but same sex battering occurs as well.  More than three out of every one hundred women have been severely assaulted by their male partners during the proceeding twelve months.  Other estimates are that husbands or significant others in the United Stated abuse higher portions of females. 

Below is a list of behaviors that have been documented in people who abuse their partners and the last four signs listed are signs of individuals who batter but many people don’t even realize what abuse is or the beginning of physical abuse in a relationship.  If your partner has several of the indicating behaviors (three or more) there is a strong potential for physical violence in the relationship.  The more behaviors that a person has the more likely the person is a batterer.  As the relationship initiates this behaviors may be more subtle but as time goes on the signals and behaviors become more prevalent and dominate and control the person. 

I have spoke to hundreds of domestic violence victims as well as high school age students about violence and I often ask this question just to hear the response. “Is it ever ok to hit your partner?”  The answer will stun you as it does me every time I ask it. “Well sometimes, depending on the situation.”  Females will even answer this question with, “it depends on what I do.”  This is why I have found that people don’t know what abuse is and don’t understand that no one ever deserves to be assaulted.  Don’t fall into the thinking pattern of most victims of domestic violence do and that is, “I can change them in time, and those little quirks that he shows sometimes will go away if I love him.” No matter how much love, compassion or determination that you show your partner you will not change deep-seated behaviors and patterns of abuse that you don’t like.  You either need to become a victim and accept it or get out of the relationship.  Now I am not a psychologist but I have dealt with realistic on the streets experience and I have always found this to be true, “you can never change a leopards spots.”


·         Jealousy: At the beginning of a relationship an abuser will always say that jealousy is a sign of love.  Jealousy has nothing to do with love; it’s a sign of possessiveness and a lack of trust.  The batterer will always question their partner about whom they talk to, who she spoke to today, why she was where she was at, accuse her of flirting, or become jealous of the time they spend with family, friends or children.  As jealousy progresses the batterer may call frequently during the day or just drop in unexspecdly.  The batterer may refuse to let the partner work or continue a career for fear that they will meet someone else or ever exhibit strange behaviors such as checking vehicle mileage or asking friends to watch them when outside the home. 

·         Controlling attitude: At first the batterer may say that this behavior is because they are concerned for their safety, and to ensure that their time is well spent, or that good decisions are made.  The batterer will become angry is the partner is late coming home from an appointment.  Once home the batterer will intensely question where she was, why she is so late, who she seen or spoke to.  As this behavior get worse the batterer may not let the partner make personal decisions about the house, personal clothing, friends or associates or even church.  The batterer may keep all the money or refuse to allow bank or checkbooks be observed or even make the partner ask permission to leave the residence.  One call of domestic violence that I responded to was called by a neighbor and through investigation it was found that when the husband left for work in the morning he locked his wife in the basement until he returned home. 

·         Quick involvement:  Many domestic violence victims dated or knew their partners for less that six months prior to getting married, engaged or started living together.  The batterer comes on like a whirlwind claiming, “you’re the only person I could ever talk to,” “I’ve never felt like this about anyone before.”  The batterer will pressure the partner to commit to the relationship in such a way that they will feel guilty or that she is letting him down if they want to break off the involvement. 

·         Unrealistic expectations: Abusive partners will expect their partners to meet or exceed all of their needs.  The batterer expects them to be the perfect wife, mother, lover and friend.  The batterer will say things like, “If you love me, I’m all that you need, you’re all that I need.”  The partner is supposed to take care of everything for them emotionally as well as physically without flaw.

·         Isolation: An abusive person tries to cut their partner off from all outside resources.  If she has male friends then she is a whore, if she has female friends then she is gay, if she is close to the family then she is still attached to the apron strings.  The batterer accuses people who may form a support network of causing trouble or being the reason for all their problems.  The batterer may want to live in the country without a phone, that batterer may not let the partner use the car or not have a reliable vehicle to use.  Or the batterer may not let the partner work, go to school or go out with friends. 

·         Blames others for problems:  If the batterer is chronically unemployed, someone is always doing them wrong, out to get them.  The batterer may make mistakes and later blame the partner for the results or for upsetting them keeping them from concentrating on work.  The batterer will blame the partner or find fault in them for anything that goes wrong. 

·         Blames others for feelings:  The batterer will blame the partner for making them angry or accuse them of hurting them by not doing what they want them to do and will use these feelings to manipulate the partner.  It is harder to identify the claims, “you make me happy, and you control how I feel.”

·         Hypersensitivity:  An abuser is easily insulted, and may claim that their feelings are hurt when really they are mad and take the slightest setbacks personally.  The batterer will rant and rave about the injustice of things that happened even things that are just a part of living, like being asked to work overtime, getting a traffic citation, paying taxes, being asked to help with chores, or that one of their behaviors are annoying. 

·         Cruelty to animals or children:  This is a person who punishes animals brutally or is insensitive to their suffering.  The batterer may expect children to be capable of doing things beyond their capability like whipping a 2 year old for wetting a diaper or the batterer may tease children until they cry.  The batterer may not want the children to eat at the table or to keep them in their rooms all evening while the batterer is home. 

·         Playful use of force during sex:  This is the kind of person who may like to throw the partner down and hold them in place during sex.  The batterer may want to act out fantasies during sex where the partner is helpless.  The batterer may be letting the partner know that the ides of rape is exciting.  They may show little concern about whether the partner is enjoying or even wants to have sex and will use sulking or anger to manipulate them into compliance.  The batterer will start to have sex with the partner while they are asleep and demand sex when the partner is tired or ill.  This may also include tickling the partner into tears or to a point of pain.

·         Verbal or emotional abuse:  In addition to saying things that are meant to be cruel and hurtful this can be seen when the abuser degrades the partner, cursing them, playing down accomplishments.  The abuser will tell the partner that they are stupid and unable to function without them.  This may evolve the batterer waking up the partner to verbally abuse them or not letting them sleep.  The abuser will ignore feelings, continually criticize you, humiliate you in public, and often refuse to share the money, and inform you about affairs that they imagine you were having. 

·         Rigid sexual roles:  The abuser expects the partner to serve; the batterer may say the partner must stay at home, and that she must be appreciative, compliant and obedient in all things, even things that are criminal in nature.  The abuser will see females as inferior to men and only responsible for menial tasks, stupid, and incapable to be a whole person without a relationship.  After time with this behavior the partner may even grow into believing this rhetoric.

·         Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde:  Many partners are confused by the abusers sudden change in moods.  They may think the abuser has some special mental problem because one minute the batterer is nice and the next minute they are exploding.  Explosiveness and moodiness are classical signs of people who beat their partners and these behaviors are related to other behaviors like hypersensitivity. 

·         *** Past battering:  The batterer has abused past partners but utilizes excuses like, “they made me do it.”  The partner may hear people talk about past violence from past partners, family members, or friends.  A batterer will beat any partner if they stick around long enough for the violence to begin; situational circumstances do not make a person resort to violence. 

·         *** Threats of violence:  This could include any threat of physical force meant to control the partner.  “I’ll slap the smile off your face; I’ll break your neck.”  Most people do not threaten their mates but a batterer will try and excuse comments by saying that everyone talks like that. 

·         *** Breaking or striking objects:  This behavior of breaking loved or treasured items is used as a punishment for acts of defiance or bedrail.  This behavior is rarely designed to terrorize the partner into submission but merely intended to show the batterers power.  The abuser may beat on the table with a closed fist or throw objects near the partner.  Again this very remarkable behavior is not only a sign of extreme emotional immaturity but there is a danger when someone thinks that they have the right to punish or frighten the partner. 

·         *** Any force during an argument:  Kicking, punching, slapping, hair pulling, pinching, biting, stomping, poking and spitting are all forms of physical violence.  This may include holding the partner down and restraining them from leaving.  The batterer may hold the partner down or against the wall and say, “you are going to listen to me.”  Weapons such as, knives, guns, baseball bats, and tools are often used if not for physical violence then as intimidation tools. 

The facts show that in the United States there are 1,500 shelters for battered women but there are more than 3,800 animal shelters.  The numbers are frightening; depending on which study that you read you will find that about seventy five percent of all women presented to emergency rooms have been or is currently the victim of domestic violence.  The number one question people ask me about this crime is why they stay in the relationship.  Well, this is not easily answered and in part the victim does not recognize the early signs or those they don’t want to recognize the signs.  We all as a society want to think that it could never happen to me and when it does we are mortified. 

Another reason may be that women who leave their batterers are at a seventy five percent greater risk of being killed by the batterer than those who stay.  Only when we realize that our partners exhibit the early signs and behaviors of a batterer and that no person deserves to be treated with less that ultimate respect will we end this crime.  Partners need to get out of abusive relationships early then inform all friends and relatives of the abuse so that the word gets out on this batterer in order to prevent the next victim.  The pattern to abuse is slow moving like a train and you will either need to get off the tracks or get run over, there are no in-betweens. 

The cycle of violence is always there and after each battering the abuser is always sorry, extremely nice and loving and will do things for the partner that is very romantic and kind.  Often women will lead on the last violence cycle in order to get to this loving stage but the cycle will erupt again and again and that is no way to live.  

There are seven steps to escaping the violence if you are involved in an abusive relationship.  I hope that you will never have to employ them in your lifetime but if you do feel free to contact the National Domestic Violence hotline for further information Help is available to callers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Hotline advocates are available for victims and anyone calling on their behalf to provide crisis intervention, safety planning, information and referrals to agencies in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Assistance is available in English and Spanish with access to more than 170 languages through interpreter services. If you or someone you know is frightened about something in your relationship, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE (7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

  1. GET TO A SAFE PLACE: It is a crime to threaten to assault or to assault another person, family or household member.  The domestic violence law also applies to persons whom have had children together.  If you are the victim of domestic violence you have the right to protect yourself and to expect help from others.  Don’t stay in the home!  Doing nothing solves nothing.  Get out of the residence and get to a friends house, relatives or neighbor.  Call the police, sheriff, state patrol or domestic violence agency immediately.  There are temporary shelters available for your and your children.  The important thing is to get to a safe place as soon as possible.

  1. CALL THE POLICE: If you are involved in an assault relationship you cannot, and will not control the situation or can you change the cycle of violence.  Therefore it is important to report any assault or battery to the police or sheriff department by calling 9-1-1 immediately.  Officers will arrest the aggressor if there are signs of violence or if the officers can establish probable cause to believe that violence occurred.  The sooner that you report the crime the better because by allowing others to get involved you assist yourself as well as the batterer.

  1. FOLLOW THROUGH: Get the name and phone number of the investigating officer involved in your case.  If there is enough evidence to establish the crime the officers will arrest the assailant and remove them from the residence.  The assailant will be incrassated until an arraignment in court is conducted and a judge will determine the bail, if any, as well as any release instructions prior to the release from custody.  This will give both you and your aggressor time to assess your situation and give you time to speak to counselors about the situation.  If the assailant if released the court will notify you of the release as well as any court release instructions.  It is common for the victim at this time to fear reprisal from the aggressor.  Remember, you are the primary witness in this crime and tampering with the case by making contact with you is a crime within itself.  If you are contacted either directly or indirectly by anyone regarding the case then contact the police immediately and demand action be taken. 

  1. DON’T BELIEVE…”IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN”: Often the batterer will be unable to admit that they have a problem or attempt to justify the action on you or another factor or place the blame elsewhere.  Counseling is only helpful if both partners want the help and are motivated to work together to make change.   At this time the batterer will be in the loving stage and will become extremely apologetic and often try and talk you into dropping the charges because, “it will never happen again.”  There is only one person a fault and that is the batterer himself or herself and though some people can change this type of behavior requires long-term counseling.  The prosecutor will not allow you to drop the charges for this very reason and if you become non-helpful in the case the state will assume the charges on your behalf.

  1. CONSIDER YOUR FUTURE SAFETY: If the batterer refuses to seek help it is unlikely that the abusive relationship will ever end.  Statistics show that the beatings will become more and more severe as time goes on so protect yourself.  Remember your love and support will never change their aggressive behavior or the cycle of violence and there will be a next time.

  1. LOOK FOR HELP: You are not alone.  There are many places where a battered person can seek assistance.  The department of social services can give you financial assistance to persons with minor children who cannot support themselves.  To qualify for this assistance you must keep a separate residence from the batterer.  Don’t be ashamed to ask for help there are many agencies out there that want to help you, you only need to ask.

  1. PROVIDE FOR THE FUTURE: Even if you have never worked before, you can become self-supporting.  Contact the employment services in your area.  Go to the library and check out the local as well as the surrounding areas newspapers and seek the classifieds. Community education classes are open to those who would like to complete their high school education or want to learn new job related skills.  Assistance with registration, academic counseling, support groups, and childcare are also available for persons returning to school to further their education.  

Monday, December 12, 2011

Recent Hutchins State Jail Escaped Offender was serving more then 18 yrs, and had been assigned there since 2010

By: Duane Stuart, Backgate Website, 

UPDATED 12/12/2011: 

 TDCJ Spokesperson confirmed the story today. TDCJ claims that he arrived at the Hutchins state jail on 11/17/2010. Over one year ago. He was serving an 18 year sentence for aggravated assault. TDCJ claims that he was quickly re-captured just outside of the facility. The escape was reported to have happened on 12/01/2011 at 2157hours. 

Word of an Offender assigned to the Hutchins state jail facility near Dallas escaping TDCJ custody for a short period of time was made available via an employee tip today. Allegations are that the brief escape was covered up by the agency due to the current investigation that has been underway since last month by the Backgate regarding state jail offenders being assigned to those facilities outside of state law regarding state jail assigned offenders being assigned to two years or less, or being currently under the classification process. Allegedly, this offender was sentenced to over 18 years, and had been assigned to the Hutchins facility since 2010. State jail offenders are bound by state law to be assigned to either 2 years or less, or under current classification processes. None of which would have taken almost 2 years. State jails are less secure, and more centrally located as to most TDCJ facilities. Mainstream media has become involved in this story and more is sure to come soon.  If you have any information on this issue or any other, email us today.

Story from a year ago still front and center regarding TDCJ issues with cell phones.

Beaumont prison where prisoner used cellphone to escape has top number of guards disciplined for sneaking in cellphones, other violations

By Jennifer Peebles, Texas Watchdog,  

Original Story from March 2011,

The Beaumont prison from which an inmate escaped with the help of a cellphone earlier this month has one of Texas’ worst track records for prison personnel bringing cellphones into the facility.

That’s according to a Texas Watchdog analysis of prison system data procured by WOAI-Channel 4 in San Antonio.

Stiles Unit, the maximum-security facility from which David Puckett, 27, escaped and made his way to Nebraska, had the third-highest number of incidents in which Texas Department of Criminal Justice workers were accused of bringing or allowing cellphones, phone components or accessories into prison confines between 2006 and mid-2010, the data show. It had 42 such cases.

With nearly 3,000 inmates and 800 employees, Stiles tied with Neal Unit, another state prison near Amarillo, for the highest number of overall reported cellphone-related disciplinary infractions for state staff, with 46, the database shows. TDCJ oversees 113 adult prison and state jail facilities.

Authorities haven’t said how they think Puckett obtained the phone he used to plan his breakout and meet up with a female admirer in Omaha, where he was recaptured. But the prison system’s inspector general, John Moriarty, said prison personnel are a factor in phones coming into the Texas prisons.

“One bad employee can bring in a lot of phones,” Moriarty said.

Altogether, the data show more than 1,100 instances in which Texas Department of Criminal Justice employees were accused of breaking prison system rules by bringing cellphones or phone parts into prisons -- intentionally or accidentally -- or otherwise allowing inmates to access a cellphone over three and a half years.

In two-thirds of the cases, the employee was found not guilty, Texas Watchdog found.

“The reason is that in many cases, (the prison system’s inspector general) did not find evidence that the individual intended to bring a phone into the unit for the purposes of smuggling it to an offender,” TDCJ spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said in an e-mail.

“There obviously is a big difference between an officer who is found with their personal phone in their front pocket because they forget to take it out, and an officer who has six phones and chargers taped to their stomach. Still, those employees who forget to remove their phone from their pocket, etc., may face disciplinary action.”

Some of the cases are noted in state records as accidental, such as when guards or other staff reported for duty and found they had accidentally brought their cellphone with them in a coat pocket. In nearly two dozen instances, records show, Texas prison personnel turned themselves in when they realized they still had their phone on them.

But they aren’t all accidental, state records indicate. It seems Texas prison employees, like the rest of the world, can’t stand to be away from their phones, even when their bosses demand it.

Cellphones have been discovered in Texas prisons inside employees’ smocks and pants pockets; a clerk’s bra strap; a psychologist’s box of paperwork, in guards’ jacket pockets, eyeglass cases, and lunch bags, and wrapped in napkins and a Ziploc bag and hidden under a box of food, just to name a few places, records show.

Some examples from the database: A chaplain at the Cotulla inmate transfer facility in South Texas tried to sneak in his cellphone inside his motorcycle helmet. A phone was found lying in a flower bed inside the secured area at Woodman Unit, outside Waco; another guard’s phone was found left in a bathroom at Wynne Unit outside Huntsville.  A prison lieutenant’s phone was found inside a boot when he left his uniform boots to be shined by an inmate at a prison north of Lubbock.

Phones are the most troublesome contraband in state prisons

Phones are the No. 1 most troublesome contraband in the Texas prisons, Moriarty said -- but they are a problem facing other states as well.

California authorities, who confiscated 10,000 cellphones in their prisons last year, recently found even Charles Manson had one; they confiscated it but later found he’d acquired another one.

Prison inmates across the nation have used cellphones to “intimidate and threaten witnesses; transmit photographs, including offensive pictures sent to victims; orchestrate crimes, such as gang activity; coordinate escapes; bribe prison officers; order retaliation against other inmates; text other prisoners; gain access to the Internet; and create security breaches,” said a 2010 report by two criminal justice professors that appeared in the FBI’s Law Enforcement Bulletin last year.

The key source of phones in California’s prisons, the state inspector general said in a 2009 report, was prison staff members. One guard made $150,000 in bribes alone by selling 150 phones to inmates, the report said. The guard was fired -- taking in a cellphone is against California prison rules -- but he couldn’t be prosecuted criminally because California has no specific law against it, the inspector general said.

That’s not the case in Texas. It’s a felony offense here to supply an inmate with a cellphone or a cellphone component, such as a “subscriber identity module” or “SIM” card, on which user information such as phone numbers are stored, or to purchase minutes of service for a phone being used by an inmate.
But that doesn’t stop the flow of phones into Texas prisons. The state confiscated 791 cellphones in Texas prisons last year, and one in every four was found at Stiles Unit, Moriarty said.

More than two dozen phones and phone components were found on Texas’ death row at Polunsky Unit outside Livingston in 2008. Those searches were part of a statewide sweep of prisons prompted by convicted killer Richard Tabler’s threatening phone calls to state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston. (Prison officials later found Tabler’s mother and sister had put minutes on his phone, which he and his buddies had used to make 2,800 calls.)

Texas prison employees are also forbidden by rule from bringing personal cellphones into a prison at any time, Moriarty said.

Employees arriving at a prison can leave their personal cellphones in their locked cars in the parking lot while they work, but they’re not allowed to have them beyond that point. Employees who have been issued cellphones by the state -- usually just the higher-ups, Moriarty said -- can bring those phones with them inside the prison, though they must be checked in upon arrival and when they leave.

Many of the phones mentioned in the Texas state database were found as the employee entered the prison building. But others were discovered the old fashioned way -- being either spotted or heard by supervisors, such as the case of the assistant warden at a state jail in Beaumont whose cellphone rang in her office, and the guard at Wynne Unit whose phone rang as he walked into the gatehouse.

Another guard, stationed at his post outside Darrington Unit in Brazoria County in December 2007, made the mistake of using his cellphone to repeatedly call his boss inside the prison, where the ranking officer’s Caller ID gave him away. He was put on probation for six months, records show.

But those cases might seem minor compared to those of guards accused of bring cellphones, SIM cards and other components into the prison with the intention of selling or otherwise providing the phones to inmates.

In one case from 2009, a Texas prison sergeant confiscated a cellphone from an inmate and was later accused of selling that phone to another inmate. Last year, a guard brought in three cellphones wrapped in Saran wrap -- and when the phones were found, she assaulted the lieutenant, records say.

Both of those cases were at Stiles Unit, records show.

Altogether, the database shows some 40 cases in which prison personnel were accused of bringing in cellphones at Stiles. The accused ranged from rank-and-file guards and staff members to two majors who were reported walking into the prison with their phones on the same day in October 2009.

“Without bad officers Puckett probably would have never had the cell phone,” David Bellow, a former guard at Stiles’ administrative segregation unit, wrote in an open letter to Texas prison authorities published online a few days ago. But Bellow blamed TDCJ’s thin staffing of the prisons, leading to overworked guards responsible for too many inmates, as the main issue behind Puckett’s escape, along with a “blind spot” on the prison grounds that he says is widely known to the Stiles community.

He’s not the only one to stay Stiles Unit has multiple problems. Whitmire, chairman of the powerful Senate Criminal Justice Committee, last week called Stiles “the worst of the worst” in a Houston Chronicle interview. The Backgate, a Web site largely focused on Texas prison issues, last week called Stiles “perpetually troubled,” though it lauded the work of Stiles’ still-new senior warden, Richard Alford, for “improvement in contraband issues, and weeding out of corrupt employees.”

The state says it’s working on the problem. “At the Stiles Unit in particular, we are in the process of installing hundreds of video surveillance cameras which will assist in our efforts and serve as a further deterrent to individuals who are considering smuggling contraband into the facility,” Lyons said.

The work should be finished in May. Cameras have already been installed at Polunsky Unit and are currently being installed at Darrington, she said.

Retaliation In The Work Place? Allegations Within The Bureau of Prisons

 By: Max Rodriguez, Backgate Website,

Is TDCJ any different?? Employee grievance records prove no. With more employees, TDCJ fares worse then the feds when it comes to employee beefs with the admin. See our ongoing story coming in the weeks to come.


By :Walter Pavlo, Contributor

 One would think that working for the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has its risks; like being attacked by some tattooed covered inmate.  However, a report from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Office of Federal Operations (OFO) says that “widespread retaliation” is a problem in the BOP.

Carlton M. Hadden, Director OFO, came to his conclusion after a lengthy process that resulted in a final report issued to the BOP on November 24, 2010.  The BOP is responsible for the custody and care of more than 214,000 federal inmates and has over 35,000 employees.  In August 2007, the OFO sent a letter outlining concerns it had about employment related retaliation complaints at the BOP that were significantly higher than in any other branch of the government (In FY 2005 complaints containing retaliation allegations at the BOP were 73.7% compared to 39.1% government wide).  It took OFO three (3) years after it began its initial investigation to publish the report after disagreements with the BOP over the results.

The study consisted of a combination of a survey sent to all Bureau of Prison employees and site visits (3 prisons) to conduct interviews.  The survey had under a 10% response rate, something the BOP argued about prior to the formal release of the report by saying that the use of “widespread retaliation” is not accurate since so few participated.  One retired corrections officer, who asked that I not reveal his identity, told me that the survey required that the employees provide their name on the survey (see EEOC report in Exhibits), they would have no anonymity.  Probably something OFO should have considered when the study involves employees who fear retaliation!  The OFO countered that even with the small number of surveys received, the on site investigations/interviews provided similar results indicating an environment of intimidation.

See the rest of the story here ! 

Friday, December 9, 2011

TDCJ Employees encouraged to submit online survey regarding TDCJ to the Legislative Sunset Review Committee

From the AFSCME union to Backgate Viewers: 
We are conducting a survey to submit to the Texas Legislature Sunset Committee regarding TDCJ Sunset review. This is a great time to address issues about TDCJ in this confidential survey our Political Policy Analyst developed. All information TDCJ employees reveal will be kept confidential, unless submitted after December 15, 2011. This information will be viewed by the Texas Legislature Committee Members to help assist with matters relating to working conditions, pay, benefits, and personnel issues. 

Follow this link to complete the survey !  
Please take the time to complete the survey. It does make a difference. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

TDCJ adds 2,000 beds as agency deals with consequences of budget cuts without policy reform

 From our friends at the Grits for Breakfast Blog;

At the Austin Statesman, Mike Ward has a piece today ("Prison cuts prove fleeting") on the predictable outcome from reducing incarceration budgets without simultaneously enacting policies to reduce the number of prisoners locked up. The story opens:

Last summer, when tough-on-crime Texas closed its first prison ever, legislative leaders were jubilant over downsizing one of the nation's largest corrections systems by more than 1,000 beds. It was a first big step, they said, toward saving taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in coming years.

Meanwhile, prison officials were adding bunks to the other 111 state prisons, which house more than 156,000 convicts. By last week, Texas had about 2,000 more prison bunks than it did a year ago, thanks to a state law that reguires the prison system to maintain some excess capacity as a cushion against crowding.

Because those beds will likely fill up — empty prison beds almost always do — Texas taxpayers could be in line for some whopping additional costs come 2013.
At least TDCJ didn't add additional beds by contracting with private prisons, which was an option the Lege had left open. But cuts to probation programming made it all but inevitable that recent reductions in the incarceration rate won't be replicated over the next biennium. Even the Legislative Budget Board predicts (pdf) the number of Texas prisoners will rise beyond capacity before the 83rd session in 2013.

See the rest of the story here ! 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Texas prison records show how many convicted to prison with no parole

 From the Backgate Webstaff

A review of Texas prison records shows juries around the state have sent 398 convicts to prison with no chance of parole in the six years since the life without parole law took effect.

Texas was the last state with capital punishment to adopt life without parole as a sentencing option in capital murder cases. The Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday that 110 of the sentences of life without parole came in Harris County, more than a quarter of the state's total.

Harris County also has more offenders on death row than any Texas county. In the same time since the law went into effect in September 2005, 11 convicted killers have wound up on death row from cases in the state's most populous county.