Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fallout from the Backgate's breaking of the Michelle Lyons story, and ongoing Legislative contacts has staffers facing retaliation and harassment on the job

By Duane Stuart, Backgate Website

A few weeks back, the Backgate Website broke the now infamous story of how TDCJ brass harassed and eventually forced former TDCJ PIO Michelle Lyons out the door. Since then, the TDCJ brass has made every effort to single out TDCJ employed website staffers working here with our site. In at least two cases, TDCJ has the names, work locations and other information on staffers and has already illegally harassed and retaliated against those employees on the job. An act that is in obvious violation of policy, and the law. One staffer was involved in whistle blowing corruption charges involving TDCJ admin to OIG some years back and is facing the same harassment and retaliation as the first staffer.

TDCJ has proven to be vindictive and paranoid and has stepped on their own tails in these cases. A well known attorney in the Houston area has been contacted regarding these charges and a possible suit is in the making. TDCJ has always felt it to be easier to write a taxpayer pay out check to employees after violating their rights and has not thought about any consequences in doing so. It's our contention that this time may play out a little differently. State Legislators and the general media will ensure that the taxpayers are aware of how their tax dollars are being spent, and why. We think it's about time that TDCJ be held accountable to the people of Texas, and as any other state agency, face the consequences of their administrative actions against their employees. TDCJ will be lucky to get out of the Michelle Lyons fiasco with money left to pay to keep the prisons open. Come on TDCJ, catch up to the 21st century and be somewhat transparent.

Texas Prison Museum still a hit with TDCJ employees and tourists alike

By Duane Stuart, Backgate Website

   It may not be even half as large as a Houston or even Austin historical Museum, but nestled in Huntsville next to Hwy 45, the Texas Prison Museum can give them a run for their money when it comes to Texas history. Former TDCJ Warden (Retired) and Director of the Texas Prison Museum in Huntsville, Jim Willett sent the Backgate Website an update on some of the happenings going on over at the Museum this summer. Willett, who authored the book " Warden" published by Bright Sky Press, retired after 30 years of TDCJ service. Many of those years spent overseeing the death chamber at the Huntsville " Walls" prison unit where Texas puts those condemned to death.

I toured the Museum some time back and found it to be interesting and very representative of the history of the Texas prison system. From the 1800's to present, exhibits reveal the true stories of Bonnie and Clyde and Clyde's escape from a Texas prison. Old sparky, the seemingly innocent wooden chair that took the lives of some of the worst Texas had to offer, sits quiet in a corner of the Museum for the curious to inspect. It's well maintained and stocked with hundreds of items of Texas penal history. TDCJ employees should make it a mandatory trip, and tourists always enjoy themselves as well. If you get a chance to drop by, make the effort.

From Jim Willett...

Old Sparky pictured at the museum
"Things at the Texas Prison Museum have been in a state of substantial growth in the
number of visitors over the last few years.  Last year we had over 29,000 people
visit our museum.  Thus far this year we are ahead of the same time period last
year.  And if spring break was indication, we are in for a very busy summer."

"Over the last three summers we have seen a lot of families taking day trips.  I have the
good pleasure to tell you that we have been able to maintain much of our pricing
over the years. We still charge the same admission prices as when we opened at our
current location, over nine years ago: $4 for adults, $3 for anyone over the age of
60, $2 for those 6 to 17, and anyone under 6 is free.  We also have discount rates
for TDCJ -ID employees, military personnel, groups, and AAA.  The gift shop is still
full of great buys.  For instance, we still charge the same $22 for key chains that
we did in 2002." 

Collage of items from the Texas Prison System at the museum
"While some displays are a fixture, such as Old Sparky, others are rotated from time
to time.  Recently we changed out our audio booth, for instance. We'd run a piece
from Witness To An Execution for a couple of years and have changed it to a piece
with Bruce Jackson and Diane Christian on some experiences that they had while
recording audio and video in the Death Row at the Ellis Unit in 1979.  It is very
interesting material and there is a new book for sale that part of their work, IN

"Photographer Barbara Sloan's popular display, Last Statement, is due to be upgraded
with new material near the end of June.  Barbara has done a really fine job of
capturing the feelings, both in word and picture, of the families affected by the
death penalty cases.  Two other recent additions to our displays are one on the
tracking dogs, with some pictures dating way back, and another on the convict Milt
Goode from the late twenties and thirties.  He helped start the Texas Prison Rodeo
after escaping twice." 

"Items are regularly being added to other displays, especially the ones on the Prison
Rodeo, and the Contraband displays. We've continued to add to our books available 
for sale and our T-shirts, as well. Our T-shirts are of good quality with competitive pricing. 
We carry a good stock of inmate-made leather goods and key chains for the correctional staff
of TDCJ-ID. "

"We are still open seven days a week, 10 - 5 Monday through Saturday, and noon to
five on Sundays.  So come on by and stay a while."

Check out the Texas Prison Museums site HERE for directions and details ! 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Get out and vote on Tuesday !

Tuesday May 29th is voting day in Texas. Get out there and vote out those who don't respect state employees. If you don't vote, you can't complain.

Find your polling place by clicking HERE!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Legislation Targets Employers That Ask For Social Media Passwords

Backgate Says;

And the people have been heard ! Texas eying it's own version as well. Kudos to lawmakers and the ACLU for pushing the issue.

New legislation introduced in both houses of the U.S. Congress this month takes aim at an employer’s right to ask employees for their social networking passwords.

The bills, sponsored by Democratic lawmakers, would make it illegal for an employer to require prospective or current employees to supply the employer with the passwords to their Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts. Both bills describe such practices as an invasion of privacy. The Senate version, called the Password Protection Act, goes even further, extending protection to smart phones, private e-mail accounts and all information contained on an employee’s personal computer.

“This is a very good step toward safeguarding the privacy of U.S. employees,” says attorney Martin Sweet of legal information websiteTHELAW.TV.“Employers should not have the right to pry into every facet of their workers’ lives.”

Although it does not appear to be a widespread issue, some employers do require prospective and current employees to give up their social media passwords. Government agencies appear to engage in the practice more often than private employers. The city of Bozeman, Montana made news in 2009 when news reports indicated the city was asking job applicants to reveal which social networking sites they used as well as their user names and passwords for those sites.

Read Entire article Here!  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Repulican primary voting on May 29th... Get out and vote for your TDCJ retirement and insurance benefits !

The Republican primaries are just right around the corner on May 29th 2012. The Employees 
union has forwarded us a list of candidates that are said to support TDCJ employee
retirement and insurance issues. We may just need these guys in our corner the way 
the system is headed today!... GET OUT AND VOTE!! 

District 1: Senator Kevin Eltief 
Counties: Gregg, Harrison, Lamar, Marion, Morris, Panola, Red River, Rusk, Smith ,
Titus, Upshur and Wood 


District 4: Lance Gooden Counties: Kaufman and all but the northwestern part of
Henderson County 
District 5: Mary Lakadoo Counties: Rains, Wood and the non-Tyler area of Smith 
District 7: Tommy Merritt Counties: Upshur and Gregg 
District 8: Byron Cook Counties: Hill, Navarro, Freestone and Anderson 
District 9: Christopher Paddie, Jr. Counties: Cass, Marion, Harrison, Panola, Shelby
and Sabine 
District 10: Jim Pitts Counties: Ellis and the northwestern part of Henderson County 
District 11: Chuck Hopson Counties: Cherokee, Nacogdoches and Rusk 
District 13: Lois Kolkhorst Counties: Washington, Austin, Waller, Colorado and Lavaca 
District 18: John Otto Counties: Walker, San Jacinto, Liberty)
District 19: Mike “Tuffy” Hamilton Counties: Polk, Hardin, Jasper, Newton and Tyler 
District 22: Allan Ritter Counties: Orange County and northeast Jefferson County
(incl. Nederland)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Riot kills one Correctional Officer, injures many more at CCA facility run by a warden with a Texas connection

(CCA Photo of Adams CCF)

By Max Rodriguez, Backgate Website

A riot that broke out in the Corrections Corp. of America (CCA) run Adams Correctional Facility in Natchez Mississippi has left one Correctional Officer dead, and as many as 7 injured and transported to a local hospital. The riot broke out among a large group of prisoners at 2:40 PM CST at the Federal Bureau of prisons leased facility 90 miles Southwest of Jackson and was still not back in CCA control as of 9:00 pm CST.

Bureau of Prisons Officers and the Mississippi State Police were assisting in the incident and stated that the prisoners were secure inside the fences and none had escaped. Smoke from fires inside the prison could still be seen pouring out just after sunset. The facility, owned by CCA since 2009 holds a maximum of 2,567 male prisoners that are classified as illegal immigrants of all nationalities that have illegally re-entered the U.S. after being previously deported.

Warden Vance Laughlin
Warden Vance Laughlin was named warden at CCA's Adams County Correctional Center in 2008, transferring from CCA's Stewart Detention Center where he also served as warden since July 2006. He served as assistant warden at CCA's Central Arizona Detention Center.

 Laughlin joined CCA in May 2004, bringing more than 15 years of correctional experience with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Officers working at CCA facilities will tell you that not unlike the Texas prison system, they too are always short handed and underpaid. A CCA Correctional Officer brings home less pay then a TDCJ Officer, and deals with much of the same daily grind.

No word was given as to the status of the other injured Officers that were transported to local hospitals. It was stated however that all are expected to recover from their injuries. We would like to send condolences out the the family and friends of the Officer that lost his life and thank him for his service.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

AFSCME union fuming over internal corruption and facebook privacy.

By Doug Glass, Backgate Website

Over the past week, fall out from our story on the forced resignation of former TDCJ Information Officer Michelle Lyons, along with blow back from accusations made against the TDCJ admin for advocating violation of employee rights by allowing it's wardens, and others to  demand employee social media passwords is coming to head.  

The Federal EEOC and the Texas ACLU have been advised of those particular issues within the agency as of last week. Also, Lance Lowry, policy analyst for the AFSCME union has contacted the national lobby in Washington D.C. regarding the issues, as well as firing off a detailed letter to Senate Criminal Justice Committee chair John Whitmire of Houston. Lowry made the following statement to the Backgate this week via email in regards to the forwarded message he sent to Washington. 

"My understanding from our legal staff is TDCJ maybe in violation of the Stored
Communications Act, under 18 U.S.C. § 2701, and the CFAA prohibits intentional
access to a computer without authorization to obtain information, 18 U.S.C. §
1030(a)(2)(C). Facebook's terms of service are clear in regards to sharing a
security password."

Lowry also included a letter the union forwarded to Senator Whitmire last week
regarding the issues with Ms. Lyons, and the facebook privacy violations. 

"Dear Honorable Senate John Whitmire,

I am contacting your office today in regards to TDCJ employees being
censored from contacting state elected officials and other activities occurring in
which TDCJ is attempting to censor employee organizing activities.
As of this last week the former Public Information Office Michelle Lyons
contacted your office via agency email in regards to possible illegal labor issues
occurring inside TDCJ.  After Michelle contacted your office the agency suspended
her email, which is vital to her job duties, and has informed her she is under
investigation for her email sent to your office. 

TDCJ is engaging employees and prohibiting them from networking with one
another on Facebook and other social media’s.  The agency has terminated several
employees for Facebook activities, under the disguise they are jeopardizing the
security of the institution.  

With the Sunset hearing coming up and the several other important legislative
activities occurring, it is important TDCJ employees feel protected from any kind of
retaliation.  It is important for public safety that the Legislature receive free
flowing information on the activities occurring in these state agencies.  Please
assist in making TDCJ upper management understand this concept."


Lance Lowry
Policy Analyst
AFSCME – Texas Correctional Employees 

If you have a first hand story to tell about a social media/rights violation issue with TDCJ, you are asked to detail those issues in an email and send it with your name and contact information 

Monday, May 14, 2012

The day we interviewed Kinky Friedman about his shot for Texas Governor - Could he still be a threat today ?

By: Doug Glass, Backgate Website

 Could Kinky Friedman be an ongoing threat for the Texas Governors mansion against Rick Perry ? He will probably never give you a straight answer is the only thing we have learned from Kinky. He did have some thought provoking ideas and comments during our last sit down interview. Check out our last interview we had with the Kinkster below;

Texas humorist, songwriter, and gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman took a few minutes just days ago to speak over the phone with me about some of the major issues facing state employees and everyone else in Texas. Kinky, now running on the democratic ticket, has more of an established platform this time around, and had a a lot to say about the future of Texas.

I started out by addressing Kinky with questions about his thoughts on Texas border security, and he had this to say. " We need to stop illegal immigration and beef up security. We need to offer the folks that are already here a way to stay. Get them tax identification cards, social security cards and allow them to pay their way." Kinky also stated that he supported a measure that would punish companies that hired undocumented illegal aliens. He went on to say that legal immigration is what the country was based on, but the current system is broken.

I had interviewed Kinky in the past, and was surprised when i got the response from him that i did when i asked him his stance on the Texas death penalty. Kinky, who once agreed with the death penalty now wants it halted if elected governor of Texas. He stated that recent cases in Texas have presented doubt to whether innocent people have been put to death. He went on to state that Rick Perry has overlooked those cases, and has failed to act on facts that should have created stays of executions based on credible evidence. Kinky stated he wants a tough stance on crime, but prefers life without parole over killing innocent people.

When we asked Kinky his opinion on Texas being near 46th in correctional pay out of the 50 states he had this to say. " TDCJ Officers absolutely need a pay raise, you can't raise hiring standards without raising the pay." He went on to point out how Texas fairs among others in education spending, and other important issues. He points the finger at Governor Rick Perry for the current position we are in now as a state. He also points out we are one of the richest, but spend the least where it matters.

Lastly, i asked Kinky what he thought about the way Texas appoints its Board of Criminal Justice. It is widely know that the 9-member Board of Criminal Justice, which is charged with overseeing the TDCJ, has not even one member with a criminal justice background. Kinky stated that he felt like those appointments fall right in line with the vast majority of Perry picks. Kinky added, " It wouldn't surprise me a bit if some of those appointees are also Perry contributors." Kinky went along with the Backgate's idea of either having the employees vote board members in, or at least make sure they each have something in their background to contribute before installing them. As it stands, most are either businessmen, or attorneys. Both of which Friedman says he has little patience with.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

TDCJ Public Information Officer charged for responding to Backgate and Senator Whitmire via email regarding misconduct by the agency, resigns amidst false claims, retaliation.

Michelle Lyons

 *Updated 05/11/12

By: Duane Stuart, Backgate Website

TDCJ Public Information Officer (PIO) Michelle Lyons resigned this morning after being targeted by TDCJ's Bryan Collier and others for simply reporting the truth. Lyons, who has been employed by TDCJ for the past 11 years, resigned after enduring retaliation and harassment by agency officials for several months. Michelle had been nothing but cordial and professional throughout our years of exchanges as the website sought out answers to questions regarding policy, statistics or contraband issues. Many of our inquiries were also forwarded to state Legislators for their knowledge as well.

Ultimately, this action (forwarding emails to Legislators) is what is believed to have put Michelle on the radar with her TDCJ bosses. She responded to us like she would have any other entity seeking answers. Certain TDCJ administrators didn't appreciate the fact that we were in the loop as we are sometimes critical of TDCJ policies and other issues. Last Friday, Michelle responded to a request for information we filed the week prior for a statement about the ongoing facebook privacy story. She stated that she had been removed from that position, and explained why she had been. She had raised concerns to her bosses about the way time was being kept months ago within the department, and brought it forward. That's were it all began. A few trumped up charges later, one for not helping a subordinate by not supplying a statement for him to use in her name, and one for explaining to us via email why she wasn't able to answer our "official request" and the rest is history. Michelle emailed us this statement this morning;

" When I received the email from Duane on Friday and when I responded to him and
everyone who he had originally copied on the message, it set in motion a chain of
events. Within a couple of hours, my email account was 'frozen' and I was told I was
under investigation. Before I was charged with failing to obey an order, I was told
that I should not have responded to Duane because he is considered media. At this
point, I would note that some time ago, I was tracking down an answer to a question
Duane had asked me and I went to Mr. Collier. He asked why I was responding to Duane
since "he's not media." It's interesting to me that he wasn't 'media' several months
ago, but now he is? At the time, I said that while Duane may not meet the definition
of media in TDCJ's own media policy, that he is a TDCJ employee and member of the
public and that I respond to as many inquiries I can from the public in addition to
those I receive from the media. That's exactly what
 I did on Friday. I view it as responding to a message from a colleague about
possible federal labor law and privacy violations and including on it my union
representative and two state lawmakers. Why is that an issue? "
Michelle went on to say;
"I know that what I've gone through these last six months is similar to what so many
other TDCJ employees have had to endure during their own tenures with the agency. I
just really didn't understand until it happened to me. I'll never know exactly what
initiated the discriminatory measures they took against me with my demotion and
pay cut, but I can pinpoint that the retaliation began as soon as I questioned the
way TDCJ requires employees to track their time and how they appear to be
circumventing federal labor laws through some policies (although an agency policy
obviously shouldn't trump federal law). Within two weeks, Mr. Collier told me "I
should have just fired you," and it only escalated from there. "
 "It started months ago,
 when they told me that I was no longer allowed to comment on any matter
 involving Sen. Whitmire - they told me I had become a "lightning rod" for
 the agency where Sen. Whitmire is concerned. (What bothered me about that
 is that 9 times out of 10, I'm saying what they tell me to say, so if
 anything, I'm only a mouthpiece for the real lightning rods, but that's
 another matter.)" 
It's ashamed that any employee with TDCJ must endure these types of retaliation and harassment. But it hits home when it's an employee in the public eye, and with media connections like those of Michelle Lyons. TDCJ has become so comfortable with it's unchecked retaliation and harassment that it doesn't skip a beat in mistreating employees statewide. As the Sunset Commission Hearings with the Legislature approach us soon, i am almost positive these issues will be heard by Legislators. Michelle Lyons was the last line of defense and the open door that provided some sense of transparency for an agency still living and operating in the dark ages. With her gone, the agency will surely suffer a huge blow to their ability to be believable and honest. We wish you the best Michelle.


Houston news, attorneys picking up on TDCJ social media fiasco.

By: Michael Williams, Backgate Website

After helping to bring the issue to light, the Backgate has fielded calls and emails from taxpayers, news media, and attorneys wanting more information about TDCJ violating the privacy rights of employees by sometimes forcibly browsing their social media accounts. Together with Lance Lowry from the AFSCME employees union, the Backgate has been in close contact with legislative offices and others regarding the violations.

 The Houston press just wrapped up a story on the issues this morning. Below is a snippet of the story with a link for the full story;

"Some employees of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice are accusing wardens of disciplining, and in some cases firing, them for having Facebook friends with criminal records.
Duane Stuart, who runs a private TDCJ employee forum,, tells Hair Balls that wardens regularly inspect employees' profiles, asking employees for their passwords if their profiles are set to private."

See the full Houston Press story.. 

Stay tuned for more in coming weeks. We will update this story as it becomes necessary.  If you have been affected by, or charged with a violation due to a social media privacy violation by TDCJ, we need to hear from you. Email us at:

Use the below links to contact a Criminal Justice Committee member to express your concerns;

Rep. Larry Philips - Criminal Justice Committee
Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon - Criminal Justice Committee
Sen. John Whitmire - Criminal Justice Committee/ Chairman
Sen. Joan Huffman - Criminal Justice Committee/Vice Chair

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

As the saying goes, you don’t take a knife to a gun fight…

By: Bryan Avila, Backgate Contributing Author

Regardless of what job you have, you always need to make sure that you have the right equipment for the job at hand. After over a decade working in the Law Enforcement community, I am still surprised that most of us do not have the tools necessary for the job that faces us every day. These tools can be either abstract tools or concrete tools (no, not the cement type…).

Lets start off with the abstract tools. How many people do you know that do not know the policies and procedures of your agency the way that they should? Exactly my point. When we do not know the policies and/or procedures of the agency that we work for, we are setting ourselves up for failure. Crash and Burn. Unemployment line. This is probably the single most important thing that we need to know about our jobs. What do you think is the only thing that is going to save you when you find yourself in court? Policy and Procedure. If you know and follow them, you can never go wrong. Ever…EVER. Your supervisor may tell you that they will back you up when they make the wrong interpretation of the written word (policy/procedure), but when the rubber meets the road, they are going to go into cover their rear-end mode and let you flap in the wind because “you should have known better.” I know that it sounds cruel, but we have all seen it happen. Know your policies by heart.

Now to the concrete tools. What do you think you need to perform your job effectively? Well, that depends on the job, does it not? Working on the road as a Police Officer is relatively simple, equipment wise. Most agencies pretty much provides you with everything that you need: Weapon, duty gear, radio, vehicle (whether take home or not), baton, handcuffs, OC, Taser or whatever else they want you to carry. If they do not provide it, they tell you “this is what you need to get” and you buy it yourself (sucks but some agencies do this). The officers working in corrections are not that lucky. They get trained, clothed, and then told have at it as they are given keys to a cellblock full of offenders. They may be provided with OC and handcuffs but for the most part, that is it.

Most officers have to buy their own duty gear (handcuff case, OC case, flashlight, flashlight holder, baton holder, Kevlar gloves, etc) with very little guidance on what they may carry. They are only told what they may not carry. This is not one of those things that is the same across the country (most police agencies have the same gear/requirements) even though there should be some guidelines.

Look at the job that you do and then ask yourself “What do I need to do my job in the most effective way possible?” After you have asked that question, look for the answer in your policies, procedures, rules or regulations. And if you can’t find it, ask someone. Don’t find yourself under equipped for the task at hand. Tools are tools but knowledge is power… 

Editor's note: and  Backgate Website Contributing author, Bryan Avila started working as a Police Officer in 1994 while attending Norwich University in Northfield, VT. In 1999 he began working for the Vermont Dept of Corrections while still working as a Part-Time Police Officer. In 2007 he left public service until 2009 when he began working for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.  - Note; the views expressed within this article are opinion and do not reflect those of  the TDCJ (Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice) in any way. 


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Friend of TDCJ employees, Foe for corrupt agencies, KPRC Investigative reporter heads to greener pastures.

Stephen Dean/KPRC Photo

By: Max Rodriguez, Backgate Website

KPRC Channel 2 News Investigative reporter Stephen Dean is headed back to his native Ohio after spending years working at the Houston NBC news affiliate. Dean broke news that made city and state government agencies cringe. He was the cornerstone of the TDCJ Terrell unit investigation in 2008 that eventually led to a Senate Hearing being called by Legislators to put the TDCJ in the hot seat regarding corruption.  

On the air in Houston since 1995, Dean's investigative reporting led to the dismantling of an entire police force. Shady characters were spotted with badges all around Houston and Dean traced them to one wealthy citizen, who had found a legal loophole allowing him to create a fully licensed police department. When Dean's reports hit the airwaves, a grand jury convened to consider criminal charges, the police force was required to disband, and the Texas Legislature responded by closing the loophole that allowed it to happen.

In 2005, the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters awarded Dean statewide "Best Reporter" honors for his colorful and dramatic live coverage of breaking news. The same group named him the sole winner of its "Freedom of Information Award" four years in a row for his ability to overcome obstacles in digging through public records. He also won the State Bar of Texas "Gavel Award" for five years in a row for his legal reporting.

Stephen spoke to the Backgate this morning and wanted us to relay a message to all TDCJ employees. In an email he forwarded he wrote:

" After 17-years of reporting heavily on TDC issues and other law
enforcement in Texas, I am heading home to Ohio.
I have enjoyed working with your group ( The Backgate ), and I only wish there was such
an organization standing up for employees of the Ohio corrections
system, where I will now be focused.
I covered that system heavily, including the longest prison riot in the
nation's history when I worked in Columbus from 1989 until coming here
in 1995.
It has been a pleasure and an honor and I wish your loyal workers well
moving forward."
- Stephen Dean
We wish you luck and success Stephen, and thanks for all you have done in the name of ethics! 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

National Correctional Officers' Week, May 6-12

From the TDCJ Connections newsletter

In 1984 the U. S. Congress approved a resolution proclaiming the first full week of May as National Correctional Officers' Week. For nearly 30 years, correctional officers and correctional employees have been officially recognized for their hard work and personal sacrifice. Memorial ceremonies, employee appreciation days and other activities remind us that every year at this time, we set aside a week to remember and honor the dedicated service of all corrections staff.

This year's National Correctional Officers' Week takes place on May 6 through 12. TDCJ wardens throughout the system will conduct employee appreciation activities to recognize and applaud the efforts of all who work in corrections.

On May 11, TDCJ will honor those who were actively engaged in their duties at the time of their death with a solemn ceremony beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the Texas Prison Museum. Survivors, family and co-workers of the fallen will gather to recognize those who were lost.
  • Michael A. Jensen, Agriculture Specialist III, suffered a fatal heart attack while on horseback and supervising four offenders who were working horses at the Wynne Unit.
  • Craig A. Orrell of the Connally Unit suffered a fatal heart attack while participating in annual in-service training.
  • John T. Wilhite lost his life in a motor vehicle accident. He was a Safety Officer II assigned to the Region V Director's Office in Plainview.
The ceremony will begin with the Correctional Institutions Division's Honor Guard entrance. The newly-installed memorial bell, taken from the now-closed Central Unit, will be used in this and all future observances. TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston will be the keynote speaker.
In addition to the May 11 ceremony at the Texas Prison Museum, memorial services honoring those who lost their lives while on active duty will be held at TDCJ facilities across the state during National Correctional Officers' Week.

All TDCJ employees are encouraged to participate in the activities and ceremonies conducted during National Correctional Officers Week to the extent their schedules permit. Further coverage of these events will be included in the May/June issue of Connections.