Monday, December 23, 2013

Louisiana State Prison court decision could be predictor of Texas litigation

By Duane Stuart, Backgate Website

The Texas Prison Project along with the AFSCME filed litigation in federal court in Texas that if found valid could require all Texas prisons to be air conditioned in coming years. That case, which has not yet been heard in Texas, would cost taxpayers millions to comply with. Similar litigation in Louisiana regarding the same issues was heard in recent weeks and found to be valid by the court. Louisiana will now be required to ensure that all of their prisons are kept below 88 degrees at all times. That practice was initiated in recent years by the Texas Jail Commission regarding all Texas jails, but state prisons did not fall into the requirement. If past judgement reflects those of the future we can expect Texas will also be required to fall in line with the Louisiana decision.

To see the entire Louisiana suit as filed, click the link below;

Louisiana Suit

Happy Holidays from the Backgate

Be safe out there !

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Yoga offered in some Texas prisons? Say it aint so..

From our friends over the Grits for Breakfast Blog......

Yoga in Texas prisons limited by religion

Brandi Grissom at the Tribune has an interesting piece up on volunteer-led yoga offerings at TDCJ, but this bit stuck out at me: "the criminal justice department classifies yoga as a religious offering ... so at some prison units, only inmates who identify themselves as practitioners of Eastern religions like Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism are allowed to attend."

That's pretty silly. In 21st century America, yoga has become utterly secularized and only a small percentage of those practicing it are adherents of Eastern religions. From the research I've seen, yoga and meditation have positive effects on in-prison behavior and recidivism, so limiting participation by one's declared religion to me seems like a counterproductive choice by TDCJ.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

TDCJ AFSCME union featured in the New York Times regarding prison heat suit

By Lance Lowery/AFSCME Union
(As published in the New York Times)

HUNTSVILLE, Tex. — IN August, right around the time when the Texas summer heat was at its brutal worst, the state’s prison system finalized a bid to replace its aging swine-production facilities with six new climate-controlled modular barns, at a cost of $750,000.

The pigs raised for inmate consumption were going to get relief from the heat, but the state’s inmates would continue to suffer. In the last six years, at least 14 inmates died from heat stroke or hyperthermia in overheated Texas prisons, where air-conditioning is scarce and temperatures can reach 130 degrees...

See the full article by clicking here

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Attorney General's Office/TDCJ deny Backgate Request for details about TDCJ Director's secret service style security detail

Brad Livingston
By Michael Williams, Backgate Website

About 90 days ago the Backgate broke the story on what many would call fraud, or at the very least, misappropriation of public funds. The Backgate received credible information just weeks after a Colorado prison chief was killed by a gunman at his residence as he answered his front door, that TDCJ's Executive Director was implementing his own security detail. Information gained from employees within the agency itself alleged that Livingston pulled Office of Inspector General officers off Huntsville area units. thus bringing ongoing cases there to a standstill, to follow him and his family on the streets of Huntsville 24/7.

 The officers racked up what some allege as thousands of dollars in overtime in the weeks they spent shadowing Livingston and his family. Officers escorted Livingston's wife and child to grocery stores, school activities, and anywhere else they needed to go. Sometimes sitting overnight in a vehicle outside of Livingston's personal home just outside of Huntsville. It was also alleged that Livingston ordered that an extensive alarm and video surveillance systems be installed in his personal home that came out of the taxpayers pockets. All the while there were no credible threats against Livingston or his family. Livingston allegedly spend thousands and thousands of dollars on personal security, even after granting himself a substantial raise while line staff got a mere 5% bump.

We asked TDCJ to answer these tough questions and asked for overtime usage hours and costs for the duration of his security, which lasted approximately 30 days. We also asked if OIG staff were reassigned to him from TDCJ units where they are already dangerously short handed with investigators. TDCJ refused to answer and referred our questions to the AG's office for an opinion on it's release. The AG's office finally answered and denied our request in full. They contend that by releasing the amount of overtime money spent on the project that it could somehow jeopardize Livingston's security in the future. They also refused to answer questions as to who authorized the expenditures, and whether or not taxpayer money was used to purchase alarms systems for Livingston's personal residence. So as it stands, the veil of TDCJ secrecy and blatant disregard for supplying taxpayers answers to legitimate questions about it's operation continue. We contacted state Senator John Whitmire's office 5 weeks ago regarding the implied cover-up and have yet to hear back as of today. We however won't stop here. Stay tuned.

See our original Story and reader comments by clicking  HERE !!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Retired Texas Inspector General shares 20 years of experience with Texas Youth Commission

By Duane Stuart, Backgate Website

 With over 20 years service with the Texas Youth Commission, Randal Chance writes about corruption, poor management, and gives his two cents on how it should be fixed. Some of what he has to say is eye opening, yet not surprising. The book is a great read from cover to cover and sheds light on some of the most horrendous management practices anywhere. We thank Mr. Chance for allowing us to preview the book.

 An excerpt from “Carnal Society”:
“The justice system has become a dynasty of corruption and cover-up of abuses that allows mistreatment of those that the system should protect and allows the ‘raping of the public’ by rogue officials.”

“I hope readers will become aware of the real truth and not rumors after reading through my book,” says Chance. “Take private and public actions to stop the ‘rape by the state’ by communicating with public officials to correct the sickening conditions.”

To get your copy of "Carnal Society" Click HERE

Saturday, November 16, 2013

High profile TDCJ escapee Arcade Comeaux dead of natural causes

By Tonya Peters, Backgate Website

Notorious prison escapee Arcade Comeaux, 53, died in a Armarillo prison last week after complaining to staff of shortness of breath and chest pains. Several corrections officers were fired or retired after the convicted sex offender, believed disabled, pulled out a smuggled pistol, fired it and fled on foot while in a van en route from Huntsville to Beaumont in 2009.

He disarmed and handcuffed two officers. Comeaux spend several days free as he attempted to elude law enforcement and prison officials in the Houston area until his arrest by Houston Police Officers and Federal Marshals. Comeaux was serving a sentence of life in prison for a 1998 aggravated sexual assault conviction in Brazos County, northwest of Houston.

He was given two extra life sentences after being convicted of stabbing his wife and another person in 1999 while she visited him in prison. Both survived the attack. He also received more prison time for the escape. The Comeaux ordeal brought about changes in the way the TDCJ transported inmates and general security issues.

Thickening field of applicants for upcoming Texas elections promises to make the races interesting

None may ever be as colorful as our interview with Texas musician, animal lover, novelist and frequent office seeker Kinky Friedman a few years ago, or up and coming prior Republican Gubernatorial candidate, now seeking the Texas Comptrollers job, Debra Medina.

Over the years our little grass roots website has interviewed several of the hopefuls and this election season won't be any different. Stay tuned as we interview some of the newest hopefuls for top positions and find out their thoughts on Texas criminal justice and prison issues. From their mouths to your ears.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Houston TV news does story on TXDOT's usage of it's state jet for personal use. Can we top that ?

KPRC TV news in Houston published a story this week about how the TXDOT used and abused their state owned jet for personal use. Does it happen more than you know ? We think it does. Stay tuned for the story regarding the jet used by TDCJ administrators. You won't want to miss it !

Check out KPRC's story on TXDOT  HERE!

Friday, November 1, 2013

TDCJ still dangerously short of staff

 TDCJ claims they are still over 3,000 Officers short statewide as of October 1st. Over 5 Million dollars was spent on overtime for the McConnell unit in South Texas for the month of September alone. So what gives and how do we correct these issues ? Weigh in as we try to get insight!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Another former agency Public Information Officer found it a hard row to hoe while employed with the TDCJ

By Duane Stuart, Backgate Website

With the Michelle Lyons (EX-TDCJ PIO) lawsuit still making it's rounds through the federal courts,and fresh on our minds, we decided to delve a bit deeper into the ins and outs of that position. Following the ousting of Michelle Lyons, the TDCJ appointed Mr. John Hurt to lead the agencies media relations outfit.

Hurt, who carries a resume listing 30 years of experience in media from working in media news rooms, to being the media face of the Texas Dept. of Transportation for 20 years, took his turn at the position and was gone before the ink was dry on his application.

After the allegations of discrimination, retaliation, and harassment brought forth by Lyons, we were curious as to why Mr. Hurt didn't stick around long following her departure. We caught up with Mr. Hurt and asked him why he chose to leave the agency so quickly, and what may have caused him, after all of his years of experience, to do so.

" My last interview was with Time magazine about the expiring execution drugs. When they found out, they positively came unglued that I did what I was getting paid for. They even admitted the interview read well, they just didn't want the issue in the media. They just wanted to keep issues like the CO shortage and the outdated execution drugs as far out of the media as possible. "  Mr. Hurt went on to explain " The admin suffers from intellectual incest. They all live in a little town, went to the same little college in Huntsville and are terrified of new ideas." Mr. Hurt then offered his ideas on how to change the face of the public information office and the agency in general.  "Moving the agency to Austin would be in everyone's best interest." " I tried to show them how to position themselves in a positive light and they didn't want any part of it. I've never worked in a stranger place."

All of which goes with what we have been saying here on this website since 1998. The agency has always presented themselves as a media disaster. The general lack of transparency, and the unwillingness to be truthful with the media and the general public has led to the gradual decline in  the reputation of the agency as a whole. Instead they insist on limiting information, dodging requests, and even offering blatant lies in place of the truth. Any reputable public company with such a position would surely be bankrupt and shuttered within 6 months if they offered the same disservice to the public. It may just be time for the largest public agency in the state to step up and change their image before it's to late. And if the current installed board of criminal justice, or TDCJ administration are unable to initiate that change maybe its time for Senate Committee intervention. I mean, surely the taxpayers who fund the agency, deserve the truth from the agency. Right? Mr. Hurt was the man that could have theoretically brought the agency into the 21st century and out of the dark ages. But as with most great TDCJ employees, they tend to migrate elsewhere to towards the path of least resistance. More to come.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Ex-TDCJ Public Information Officer files appeal in suit against former employer

By Tonya Peters, Backgate Website

Michelle Lyons, who once composed the front line for the agency in matters regarding the media, has filed an appeal to the US 5th circuit court where her case is now being heard for gender discrimination. Lyons, who left the agency after being the center of retaliation and harassment by the agency after bringing forth information of wrongdoing to her superiors almost two years ago, was confident she would still have her day in court to describe her employment with the agency.

 The US District court hearing her case made a summary judgement and dismissed the case. Attorneys for Lyons immediately filed an appeal to the court to keep the case active. A decision is still pending.

The Huntsville Item newspaper released a story about the case on October 8th where they spoke about the dismissal, but not the appeal. No information on a source for the story was listed in the article, but sources tell the Backgate that present TDCJ PIO Jason Clark provided the information to the Item news through his office. Clark, who worked under Ms. Lyons during the alleged discrimination, is also listed in her lawsuit against the agency. The Backgate attempted to contact the reporter at the Item who wrote the article to verify but have received no response to date. Yesterday the Item published another article as an update to the first on the case that now includes the perspective of the Attorneys representing Lyons. The Backgate spoke with Ms. Lyons on October 9th regarding her case and she verified that the Item had never called her or her attorneys for a statement on the first story.

Lyons had been removed from her position as Director for public information with the agency after TDCJ stated that they had found a "discrepancy" on her time sheet she filed, she was subsequently demoted to a position that paid $14,000 less per year then her original position. That discrepancy, which was a method of time reporting done by several other employees and supervisors for years, didn't benefit the employees due to the fact that they were not payed overtime and were salaried employees. A fact said to have always been known and accepted by the administration.

 We believe the real reason Lyons was targeted was due to the fact that she, within the scope of her position, was issuing statements officially requested through the proper channels to this website for use in web stories. " Ms. Lyons was courteous, professional and never appeared to be hiding any information we were seeking through the proper channels within the PIO department" said Duane Stuart, the Backgate's site manager. " Apparently TDCJ looked down upon the fact that she was providing the information to us due to our longstanding reputation of providing TDCJ employees, as well as the taxpaying public and Legislators, with the good, the bad and the ugly occurring within the agency. I feel the actions against Ms. Lyons were based solely on that fact and not on the basis of some constructed disciplinary charge filed against her for improperly reporting of her time. It's obviously part of the common practice of the TDCJ to single out and retaliate against those employees who pose an issue to their widespread corruption and corrupted practices."  Stuart went on to say.

We have also reached out to Mr. John Hurt, who briefly also held the TDCJ PIO position following the removal of Michelle Lyons. He is now no longer a TDCJ employee. See what he had to say about it all coming up soon!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Texas law maker has set her sights on the Governor's mansion

By Tonya Peters, Backgate Website

 Wendy Davis, now nationally known as the Texas Legislator who filibustered to keep abortion rights at the forefront in the state, has now officially entered the Texas Governor's race. Can she garner enough votes to topple a Rick Perry style Republican? Davis, a Democrat, thinks she can. Will state employees support her ? What are your thoughts ?

Texas AG's Office sued by one it's own attorneys?

By Duane Stuart, Backgate Website

In a surprising turn of events within the Texas Attorney General's Office, one of it's own attorneys has filed a federal whistle blower lawsuit against the agency.

The whistle blower claims that he was retaliated against after uncovering and reported "illegal acts" within the agency. Sounds like some of the same issues that TDCJ is famous for doesn't it ?

See the entire story as written by the Austin American Statesman by clicking HERE!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Have TDCJ staffing issues improved any since our interview with the Texas Tribune just over a year ago?

From The Texas Tribune
By Emily Foxhall

Duane Stuart, who has been employed by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for 22 years, says conditions for workers in prisons are only getting worse. The only thing keeping him in his job as a correctional officer is his desire for the retirement benefits that he will be eligible for after 30 years of employment.

Stuart added that his peers have been voicing concerns that some of the units are becoming increasingly unsafe, especially as staffing numbers shrink and employees are being forced to work overtime.

Several TDCJ facilities built in rural areas have had particular difficulty in attracting and retaining correctional officers. During fiscal year 2011, units in Kenedy, Beeville, Beaumont and Lamesa all had turnover rates above 40 percent. While TDCJ has increased its efforts to bring employees to these positions — addressing staffing issues remains a "top priority" for the department, said TDCJ spokesman Jason Clark — the problem has made headlines throughout the summer.

Read the full Article Here!

Valley gangster gets the needle for slaughtering 4 women in 2002

Robert Gene Garza was put to death in Huntsville at 8:41 PM yesterday for his involvement in the deaths of four women gunned down in their car in Donna in the Rio Grande Valley after almost 11 years to the exact date he committed the crime back in September 2002.

A member of a Rio Grande Valley gang known as the Tri-City Bombers even before he was a teenager, Garza insisted a statement to police acknowledging his participation in the September 2002 shootings in Hidalgo County was made under duress and improperly obtained. Garza was said to be in a leadership role within the gang at the time the crime was committed.

Garza also was charged but never tried for participating in what became known in the Rio Grande Valley as the Edinburg massacre, the January 2003 slayings of six people at a home in the city.
In the case that sent him to death row, Garza was convicted of two counts of capital murder for the slayings of the four women. Evidence showed they were living in the U.S. without legal permission just outside Donna, about 15 miles southeast of McAllen.

As the news of his demise was filtered onto social media sites late yesterday, many people  from the valley commented as to what a great guy he was, what a great "leader" he was and how proud they were to have known him. There were comments about how the girls may have deserved it, how he may have been framed, and how cute he was as a thug.  There were even girls who had wished they could have married him. So, whats the attraction to a cold blooded, gang related killer? Has society, and youth in general really hit their low place? Is it a valley culture that sees these people as heroes, as celebrities ?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

AFSCME union speaks out to Backgate on Prison Heat Lawsuit

By Duane Stuart, Backgate Website

  After the AFSCME union released a public statement just over a week ago to it's members and the general public regarding it's intention to join an in- process lawsuit filed on behalf of state inmates regarding extreme heat conditions behind bars, there has been some backlash from employees the union itself represents. After we posted the news release, we received dozens of emails in opposition of the employees union joining the suit initiated by an offender organization.

The number one issue with these employees is that they feel the union is now somehow in cahoots with offender organizations. Thereby crossing that invisible "us against them" line in the sand.

We reached out to Lance Lowery, The American Federation of State, County, Municipal Employees union counsel 3807 President for clarification on the union's decision to join the heat related suit that asks state officials to provide air conditioning in state prisons to ease extreme summer heat conditions for both employees and offenders. 

Mr. Lowery sent us this email as a response;

"This suit is not about the inmates, it's about the employees who are working in extreme heat.  Thousands of employees are effected by unhealthy work conditions.  We are bringing forth a suit for the employee's, not the inmates.  We are supportive of all litigation seeking climate control to prevent any further unnecessary death or illness for all parties."

"Heat enhances and increases the likelihood for employees to have heart attacks, high blood pressure, adverse effects of diabetes, or even strokes, which employees have died from while at work under hot conditions."

"While we have found there are a few people ignorant of the dangers of work place heat, most employees support our actions to improve work place conditions for employees and prevent unnecessary deaths or illnesses." 

"It comes down to this, we don't want to see anyone else die.  Heat doesn't care if it's victims are wear white or gray.  Poor southern states such as Arkansas have air conditioned their prisons for over 30 years without breaking the state.  Texas is a wealthy state that can pay for better conditions and pay for their employees, but chooses not to.  Upper administrators are rewarded extremely well for keeping the cost low, while the officers are having to put up with the daily fallout and extreme shortage of staff during the summer months.  The number of call ins during the summer time speaks volumes about what the employees support, extreme heat obviously is not one of them. "

Lance Lowry
President AFSCME 3807
Texas Correctional Employees
"We Patrol Texas' Toughest Beat"

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A dozen do not’s – 12 bad corrections habits

By Joe Bouchard
Backgate Contributing Author

Like a dozen doughnuts, these do nots are in a variety. No two are exactly the same flavor. You may like one and loathe another. 

 That is the beauty of variety. So, pour yourself a cup of coffee and enjoy as many of the do nots as you can stomach. 

  1. Do not lie. This is the original vocational sin and the gateway to disrespect, distrust, pain, possible incarceration, the dark side and possibly even death. For such a little word, ‘lie’ has many implications.
  2. Do not smuggle. Keep unauthorized business enterprises out of the picture. There are many examples of staff who foolishly brought in contraband for prisoners in exchange for a few hundred buck or in the name of ‘love’. Is it worth it for you to possibly lose your integrity, standing in the community and at work, career, future earnings, family and friends, and maybe even your freedom?
  3. Do not advertise your hobbies. Letting prisoners know your political leanings, favorite bands, choice of pet and other interests provides a handle for manipulation. It is true that not all prisoners will take advantage of this information. However, they may still tell others.
  4. Do not bring your family into the mix. Keep family out of conversations, for their safety and yours. Like hobbies, this is a handle for the manipulative prisoner.
  5. Do not automatically say yes. Giving permission to do something is easy because there no confrontation follows. Yet, corrections has staff to client confrontations built in. Quite simply, we have to say ‘no’ at almost every juncture. The reason may be policy driven or a wise discretionary choice. Permission once can come back to haunt you.
  6. Do not sleep on the job.
  7. Do not forget to alleviate stress in legitimate ways. This is no secret; Corrections is a stressful vocation. You need to find a healthy way to unwind or you will eventually become a time bomb. Also, if you do not handle your stress at work, your home life may suffer.
  8. Do not rage. Check your anger and act professionally. If you show anger, you are demonstrating that you have been knocked off your square.
  9. Do not overlook contraband. Forbidden items of all kinds are the building blocks of disorder. What you overlook or permit may hurt you and others later. The item itself may not be the direct cause of pain and injury. However, it may be a link in the chain of events leading to disorder.
  10. Do not forget history lessons from older staff. There is wisdom in experience. One of my colleagues once told me, “It is a good life if you don’t weaken”. Ol’ Cecil was right, as far as I am concerned. To the young cynics and know-it-alls, I concede that times and policies may change. However, underlying philosophies are useful and can transcend time, societal trends, and administrations.
  11. Do not overlook ulterior motives. Sometimes there are evil intents behind a smile or kind words. This is not a battle cry to embrace paranoia. Rather, this is a caution. Things are not always what they seem. 
  12. Do not forsake hope. On the most horrible day at work, there is solace in the fact that this is not a permanent condition.
Advice is a funny thing. Sometimes it seems trite and unimportant. Still, when one looks at it against the background of the mission, the ideas make more sense. Remember that these twelve little do nots form a firm foundation of corrections safety for staff, offenders, and the public.

These are the opinions of Joe Bouchard, a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections. These are not necessarily the opinions of the Department. The MDOC is not responsible for the content or accuracy

Friday, September 6, 2013

AFSCME union joins inmate suit over heat related issues in Texas Prisons

By Duane Stuart

The largest of the state's Correctional Officer unions, the AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, Municipal employees) union, has announced that they will join an already pending lawsuit initiated by offender families and support groups seeking to air condition Texas lock-ups.

The inmate groups claim that the sweltering South Texas heat can hover near 110 degrees in some prisons and that heat indexes (what it really feels like) can read near 120 degrees or better. Some have even contributed a handful of offender deaths to the heat. TDCJ has denied that allegation, and states that Texas Prisons are supplying ice, cool water, and fans for offenders to cool off with and that they have no plans to air condition any prison units. The AFSCME union states that they are concerned about the health and safety of correctional staff that must also be present in that same heat to watch over the offender population.

Union officials stated in a press release that older correctional staff, and staff that may be on certain types of required medications have and will continue to suffer in the extreme heat conditions inside the walls if relief is not ordered. So what is your take on the situation? Keep it clean, and professional.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Request for information on Livingston security services and who payed the bill stiffled by TDCJ

By Duane Stuart, Backgate Website

The Backgate posted a story last week regarding potential improprieties regarding use of state resources to provide 24 hr security services for TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston and his family. Office of Inspector General Officers were pulled away from their units of assignment and large back logs of criminal cases to provide secret service style security for Livingston and his family both at his home, and around the Huntsville area. Reports were also received from credible sources that indicate that Livingston may have used state funds to install an elaborate security system in his private home outside of Huntsville. TDCJ has since officially denied that report via email just this week.

The Backgate requested open records from the agency last week asking for information on spending for overtime and incidentals for his assigned security officers, who authorized the spending, and whether or not taxpayer money was used to install the security system in his private home. The agency deflected the request and forwarded it to the Texas Attorney Generals office for an opinion as whether the information is releasable. In our opinion, the taxpayers of Texas (you and me) have the right to know how much or our tax money is spend, and on what it's being spent on. Not to mention proof on whether or not it's being used illegally, or without proper authorization. We are still awaiting the OAG decision. The agency has always appeared secretive in dealing with these types of issues when in fact as a publicly funded agency, they should remain transparent. We will see this one through and report back as new information comes in.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Climate-Controlled Swine Buildings Dismay Inmates' Advocates

In light of lawsuits alleging that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice failed to shield inmates from heat-related deaths, inmates’ advocates are denouncing an agency contract to build six “climate controlled” buildings for pigs.

The building contract, which was awarded to Art's Way Scientific for $750,000 June 25, will house sows and their new piglets for the first three weeks after birth, said TDCJ spokesman Bryan Collier. The agency breeds pigs for its agriculture program, which provides food for inmates across the state.

Backgate Says: How about the employees get the A/C, or that money go to raises for the line staff ? Hmmmm.....

Friday, August 16, 2013

Texas taxpayers foot the bill for Secret Service style body guard protection for TDCJ Director

TDCJ Director Brad Livingston
 By Duane Stuart, Backgate Website

Armed body guards, state of the art surveillance equipment and alarms ? A hit Hollywood movie maybe? Not exactly. The Backgate has learned from a reliable whistle blowing agency insider that it's not a cool new action movie plot, it's reality. The insider told the Backgate that after the March 2013 murder of Colorado prison chief Tom Clements that someone implemented a secret service style personal protective unit for TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston. TDCJ pulled as many as 5-7 armed OIG ( Office of inspector general ) officers to act as his personal protective unit 24 hours a day, 7 days per week on and off of the job. The source also stated that the protection did not end with Livingston, it also included his wife and child.

 OIG officers were assigned to each seperately as the
TBCJ Chair Oliver Bell
child participated in sports practices, and his wife browsed the shelves at the local grocery store. All on the dime of Texas taxpayers. Although there was in fact one reported threat to Livingston's safety by a women identified as " an older female who was obviously mentally ill",  that threat was quickly downplayed and resolved by investigators. For 90 days, the protection continued with officers staking out Livingston's personal home in an affluent Huntsville subdivision. But i doesn't stop there, Livingston reportedly had thousands of dollars in survellance and alarm system equipment installed in his private home also at taxpayer expense. When questioned as to who may have approved such a large expenditure at taxpayer expense, the insider confirmed that Texas Board of Criminal Justice chairman Oliver Bell approved the measures. Hundreds of hours of OIG overtime, and manpower pulled from Hunstville prison units to act as chaperones and body guards ? All of which is obviously out of the realm of approval by the TBCJ chief. The Backgate also contacted a high ranking law enforcement official who stated that any and all possible threats would have been investigated by either local law enforcement, or the Department of Public Safety. Not the OIG.

 A prominent Austin Attorney we spoke with about the issue stated  "Obviously there should have been some sort of oversight or accountability of the agency authorizing such large expenditures for services and items not relevant or necessary for state business." " For instance,the placement of an alarm system in the private home of the TDCJ director for his personal use, when and if he sells that home, who assumes the cost of removing it since the state of Texas purchased it, or will the new owner simply inherit it?"  With the agency already in the red, and overtime rampant for Correctional staff statewide, we are seeking answers.

A longtime employee of the agency wrote to the Backgate about the issue " When myself, or any other Correctional Officer is threatened, which is everyday, TDCJ doesn't supply a body guard for me or my family or any other families, what makes him better then us?" The Backgate has sent out requests for official statements to the TDCJ, TBCJ, OIG, and state Senator John Whitmire.  We have yet to get any type of response from any of them as of today. As soon as we do, we will update this story.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Three smuggler’s motivations: TLC

By Joe Bouchard, Backgate Contributing Author

I believe that most corrections staff are honest and honorable. They act under dangerous conditions every day to fulfill the mission of safety for staff, prisoners, and the public. It is the epitome of public service. Corrections staff are the hidden heroes of the Criminal Justice System.

Unfortunately, not everyone is honest. From time to time, stories break in the news about staff who smuggle contraband inside the facility. Despite the nobility of the profession, ‘dirty’ staff are not absent from the equation.

When staff bring contraband into a facility, there are three chief dangers. First, a prisoner or a group of prisoners may become powerful and compromise security. The contraband item itself can be a source of direct or indirect power. Second, the staff person is a weak link who gives advantage by overlooking misconduct. Third, once discovered, the honest staff reassess how much they had formerly trusted the smuggler. Trust between staff is a fundamental glue in corrections. When that bond is broken, we are less effective, as we spend more time scrutinizing each other than monitoring prisoners. Betrayal is a psychological hurdle that is difficult to get over.

I think that there are three main motivations for staff to smuggle. They are simple to remember with the letters TLC. They are the thrill seeker, the libidinous, and the compromised.

Thrill seeker –
Some people derive pleasure from deceiving others. The jolt that thrill seekers get from performing forbidden acts can be intoxicating and addictive. One of the most forbidden acts for corrections staff is to introduce contraband into the facility.

Libidinous -
Another forbidden act –an illegal act and cardinal corrections sin - is for staff to have sex with prisoners. Lust / ‘love’ is a way that some fall under the spell of the contrabandist. With that as a motivation, the relationship between smuggler and manipulator becomes one of puppet and puppet master.

Compromised -
When some staff are caught in a mistake, they conceal it. Often, in exchange for the false promise of not revealing the mistake, the enterprising prisoner asks staff to bring in a small, forbidden item. Eventually, they allow themselves to be manipulated into misconduct. Of course, the trap is sprung when the prisoner’s demands increase in size and danger. Many staff-assisted escapes have root in a simple compromise.

In a perfect world, zero percent of staff smuggle. However, the world is not perfect. How can we help mitigate this?

  • Staff should take routine searches of staff as routine.
  • Understand the motivations to smuggle and look for tell-tale signs.
  • Talk to your colleagues.
  • Check yourself. Do not test the bounds of policy limits on items that can be taken inside.
  • Refocus. Keep an eye on the mission statement when depression over betrayal rears its ugly and pervasive head.
  • Do not isolate vulnerable staff. Otherwise, they are susceptible to smuggle.

We will not always know who is about to compromise security. But understanding the motivations outlined in TLC is a start. Even so, our safety depends on keeping contraband out of our facilities. This is consistent with the role of hidden hero.

These are the opinions of Joe Bouchard, a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections. These are not necessarily the opinions of the Department. The MDOC/The Backgate is not responsible for the content or accuracy

Monday, August 5, 2013

Agency Ethics? Lets hear from you

By The Backgate Website

What are ethics you may ask ? Well the dictionary defines it as such;

eth·ics [eth-iks] 
plural noun
1. ( used with a singular or plural verb ) a system of moral principles: the ethics of a culture.
2. the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group, culture, etc.: medical ethics; Christian ethics.
3. moral principles, as of an individual: His ethics forbade betrayal of a confidence.
4. ( usually used with a singular verb ) that branch of philosophy dealing with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and to the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions.

With more and more ethics and morals issues arising within the agency in recent years making news, what issues have you witnessed that could be suspect ? No names or identifying ranks please or your post will be deleted.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Contraband control: Weighing the costs and the benefits

By Joe Bouchard, Backgate Contributing Author

The following is not intended to belabor what may be obvious to some. Rather, this is food for thought. Each of us has to question how much enforcement is too much enforcement.

Where post orders and policy are silent, our discretion is necessary. If, for example, you find something during a search that seems inconsequential or even a nuisance, you still have to make a choice to do something or do nothing.

Do you write up the fishing line you found or just discard it due to the many that you see each day? Do you ignore it and step over it because everyone fishes? Will issuing a misconduct report dissuade further instances? Or will confiscation end the endeavor? In the end, will offenders persist in breaking the basic passing rule, no matter which path you elect to take?

Practitioners differ on what should be disposed of and what shall remain with the prisoner. Even with policy parameters and discretions, the decisions are sometimes difficult. With that in mind, a conceptual step back may clarify the need for contraband control.

Do the costs of enforcement outweigh the benefits? As with discretionary power to dispose of an item, this is up to the individual.

Some of the costs of enforcing contraband control rules on small items are listed below:

  • Difficult;
  • Time consuming;
  • Contraband may be used as a diversion or a sacrifice misconduct in order for something else to be achieved elsewhere;
  • Tedious;
  • Potentially hazardous materials – one could be stuck, injured, or infected by a hidden item;
  • Revenge from prisoners and dirty staff;
  • Very few things found;
  • Ridicule about being a labeled a “Robocop”;
  • Prisoners may harass you with charges of unfair enforcement.

Benefits of contraband control:
  • Enforcing basic rules may dissuade the breaking of major rules;
  • Safety of staff;
  • Safety of prisoners;
  • Safety of the public;
  • Stop injuries and fights;
  • Prevent chaos/preserve stability;
  • Save lives.
Disposal of nuisance contraband, small items that are common and seemingly harmless, is sometimes left to the discretion of the individual staff member. When discretion slows you down and you are uncertain on what to do, simply weigh the benefits of your actions.

I personally believe that the benefits of contraband control outweigh the costs. The most important benefit is safety for all inside the facility and the public. Persistent contraband control is the foundation of safe corrections operations.

These are the opinions of Joe Bouchard, a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections. These are not necessarily the opinions of the Department. The MDOC is not responsible for the content or accuracy

Perry won't run for re-election in 2014 - How will it affect TDCJ.

So does this mean a new TBCJ chair will be appointed ? Will it affect TDCJ employees?

From The Huffington Post

Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) announced Monday that he will not seek reelection in 2014.
"The time has come to pass on the mantle of leadership," Perry said of his decision.
"It's been an improbable journey that has taken me from a farm in this place called Paint Creek, Texas to the governor's office," Perry said of his time in office. "Each day has been an honor."
Perry's announcement came during a news conference in San Antonio, Texas.

First elected as the Lone Star State's lieutenant governor in 1998, Perry became governor in 2000 after then-governor George W. Bush resigned to become U.S. president. He was reelected in 2002, 2006 and 2010. He unsuccessfully ran for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, leaving the race ahead of the South Carolina primary.

See the whole story here! 

Friday, July 12, 2013

TDCJ OIG to look at donating confiscated cell phones to injured veterans, other viable groups

By Marcus Williams, Backgate Website

Over the past few months the Backgate has received numerous emails asking just what the TDCJ did with all those recovered and confiscated contraband cell phones found in state prisons all over Texas. Well, we asked the TDCJ and the answer may just surprise you.

 A TDCJ spokesperson has stated that confiscated cell phones that are cleared from pending litigation or have been confiscated outside of the secure perimeter of a state prison facility may now
be headed to disabled military veterans and other viable groups here in Texas. The program is in the planning and discussion stages and as more information becomes available we will update. Other groups donate used phones to women's crisis centers and the like all over Texas, and this program would prove just as beneficial. Kudos to TDCJ for taking a positive step in bettering itself in the eyes of the community.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Want to write for a website that sees thousands of hits per day ?

Ever think about writing about issues you have seen and experienced first hand ? Have a knack for speaking the truth ? Well if so, the Backgate is looking for you. We have been around since 1998 and have come from grass roots to having our work featured worldwide by the Associated Press as well as by local Texas news outlets. We have interviewed Gubernatorial candidates, legislators and the chair of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice.

We see thousands of hits from all over the world and have garnered the attention of Texas Legislators and others for our work. We are seeking writers, and reporters from all over Texas and beyond. You need not have been employed by the TDCJ, or any law enforcement department. If you have interest in criminal justice or politics your welcomed. To apply email us at and tell us about yourself.

Heres your chance : Is TDCJ staffing still at dangerous levels , morale still dangerously low?

By The Backgate

 So sound off out there statewide. Is your unit/facility up to par with staffing, if not is overtime still an issue? What about morale? Does it exist, and how can it be improved where your at? Please post the region you work in when posting your comments, and keep it clean. We will be using your comments for an upcoming story.

Friday, June 28, 2013

TDCJ's refusal to answer open records request from Backgate on staffing issues may have opened a legal can of worms

By Doug Glass, Backgate Website

Two months ago the Backgate Website forwarded a request for staffing numbers to the TDCJ open records office. The request asked for simple numbers on current unit staffing numbers, overtime usage numbers, and vacancy information. TDCJ denied that basic request and forwarded it to the Attorney Generals Office for an opinion on the legality of it's release. Over the years we have often requested the same basic information through official means and been granted full access to those numbers. This time the TDCJ claimed that the information, if released, put staff in danger on Texas prison units where under staffing was an issue in that if the offenders or outsiders saw the real stats that it could create safety concerns.

The AG's office bought into the diversion and denied the request as well. So why was TDCJ hiding staffing information all of a sudden? What had changed from all the other times the same information was requested, and granted with no issue? Are staffing issues so bad now that basic information on the numbers are now made secret to the general public and agency employees ? Or maybe it's the millions being spent on overtime, most of which being forced upon employees. Either way the actions of the state have made several attorneys and legal analysts out there sort of curious to say the least.

TDCJ has long since made available only what they feel the public need to know, now whats covered under Texas law. The Backgate has been at the forefront of exposing the corruption of the few that walk among some of the most professional correctional professionals on the planet, and has learned how the open records policy works first hand. As i have always said, it's when a government agency tries to cover up truth, hush whistle blowers, and operate in the shadows when they ignite public interest and appear to be corrupt. Open the doors and show the employees, tax payers, and Legislators whats behind the curtain to alleviate all question. More to come...

Retired TDCJ Warden who oversaw executions speaks out

AP Photo - C.T. O'Reilly
From The Huffington Post

FORNEY, Texas — Charles Thomas O'Reilly supported capital punishment when he oversaw his first Texas execution. And he still supported it after his 100th.

In six years as warden of the Huntsville Unit, the prison that houses Texas' death chamber, O'Reilly supervised about 140 executions – more than any other warden in state history.
Now retired, he reflected on his career this week as the nation's busiest death penalty state as the state executed its 500th inmate since resuming capital punishment in 1982.

Link to the FULL STORY HERE !

Friday, June 14, 2013

Ledge offers nod to close two Texas prisons

CCA Mineral Wells Facility
By Tonya Peters, Backgate Website

The Texas Legislature has approved the closure of two Texas prison lock-ups saving an estimated $97 million over a two year period. Both prisons, which are operated by CCA ( Corrections Corp. of America), can house a total of 4,316 inmates.

The closure will affect the employment of  658 employees. Local officials in Parker County, home of the Mineral Wells facility,  have voiced strong concerns for the loss of those jobs and it's potential affect on the community.

Unfortunately those concerns were overlooked. The Dawson facility has long been eyed as a potential target for closure after what a local Dallas TV station reported as " Questionable Deaths" that occurred inside the jail, along with a string of other operational issues over the years.

Does un-air-conditioned Texas Prisons equal cruel and unusual punishment for inmates ?

By Doug Glass, Backgate Website

The Grits for Breakfast blog has explored some thoughts that the Texas heat may present a form cruel and unusual punishment for Texas Prison inmates. Some Texas prisons have been known to reach upwards of 120 degrees inside during the summer months. This was the basis of a lawsuit filed in 2011 regarding the death of an inmate that was alleged to have died of heat related issues in an East Texas prison. Numerous employee heat related issues have also been common place over the years as referenced by TDCJ's own office of risk management. So should Texas prisons be cooled ?

Read the Grits for Breakfast Blog story here!  

Prison and Pre-school Parallels

By Joe Bouchard, Backgate Contributing Author
School is out for summer. One ritual that we see every May and June is the painted cars of graduating seniors. With a little time, imagination and washable paint, many motor vehicles are transformed into rolling art work, complete with phrases of the day and classic quips.

A common phrase that can be found on these painted cars is “Thirteen years in Prison!” Naturally, a graduating eighteen year old would never really know what it is really like to spend over a dozen years in a correctional facility.

But are there similarities?

Corrections professionals, have you ever had a good professional chat with someone from early childhood education? If you ever do, you may find that there are many compelling parallels between the two occupations.

Before we delve into the similarities, I issue this disclaimer: The following is not intended to disparage students, educators, corrections professionals and offenders. This does not suggest that corrections equals education. It is simply an interesting look at corresponding elements.

Recently, an early childhood education professional showed me a cleverly disguised thumb drive. It was a teddy bear key chain that could have been easily brought in to a facility, loaded with dangerous information. She showed this to me because she knows of my interest in contraband control. Her find was insightful and made me realize that she understood the central goal in corrections is security.

I told this teacher of my methodical daily sweep of the prison library, leaving out no detail of how I search. I also explained other safety activities, including how I search the shelves, absorb staff observations, and read body language through the day.

I was surprised to learn that she conducts a sweep of the room each day for the sake of safety. “But these are pre-school kids,” I said.

She told me that it does not matter. She has a responsibility to keep the classroom safe. Otherwise, a hazard-in the classroom could derail the lesson plan and cause injury and liability.

First of all, broken toys are hazardous. In the same way that most corrections agencies deem any broken item as contraband, splintered toys need to be removed. The difference lies in the application of the derelict item. In prison, a broken eye glass arm could be a poking weapon. In school, the worry is not about a weapon, but that the item allows children to hurt themselves.

Choking and poking hazards are all around the classroom. It takes time and a keen, experienced eye to sweep the room of dangers. Also, some teachers assess how many toys are in play during play time. Too many on the floor can cause overstimulation or an occasional instance of theft. Too few toys may prompt fights over scarce resources. Just like in corrections, teachers need to know what items are out and how they are used.

Toys can be weapons when hurled as projectiles by a frustrated student. Inside the walls, we assess how common items could hurt us if they became airborne. Both teachers and corrections staff should be aware of common items used as missiles.

The playground, our equivalent to the yard, must be searched each day. Teachers look for holes in the fences and hazards on the ground. Some dangerous items that can be found are broken glass, hypodermic needles, animal droppings, shell casings, and more. Outside the fence, one can find feral animals and sexual predators. The perimeter needs to be scanned to keep the playground secure.

Just like in prison, body fluids are a concern. Most educators are trained to treat body fluids as potentially infectious. At the end of the day, gloved teachers and assistants bleach and clean surfaces. During the day, care of the children may require contact between the professional and body fluids. Therefore, the teacher who helps a child blow her nose should don gloves.

Students have been known to bring in items that are inappropriate for the setting. Some may bring cigarettes, lighters, cell phones, minicomputer tablets and even toy handcuffs. On occasion, stories in the national news tell of an elementary school student with a gun in his desk.

And like our jails and prisons, the education professional has to be aware of outside hazards. Strangers may randomly wander in the schools. A vengeful parent or disgruntled employee can wreak havoc. And closer to corrections, an absconder could hole up in a school and possibly take hostages. The education process should be an open, inviting place. However, just with any open window, anything can come in.

It is my hope that children continue to have fun in school and make it safely to the day when they can paint letters on their car. This is made possible by education professionals who lay the base line of safety before the day and the instruction begin.

To be certain, prison does not equal pre-k through 12 education. However, both corrections and education are alike in the need for a secure environment. Without safety, the best education plan in the world cannot be fully used.

These are the opinions of Joe Bouchard, a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections. These are not necessarily the opinions of the Department. The MDOC is not responsible for the content or accuracy

Thursday, June 6, 2013

So what happens to all those contraband cell phones recovered by TDCJ- OIG anyway ?

By Tonya Peters, Backgate Website

OIG receives literally hundreds of recovered contraband cell phones a year from units all over the state of Texas. When no one is charged, where do those phones end up ? Stay tuned for the upcoming Backgate exclusive story. You just may be surprised.

Question of ethics and positive influence, or personal business?

By Michael Williams, Backgate Website

So the question has been submitted to us via email probably a hundred times over the years. Is it ok for a warden to sleep with subordinate staff on his unit or facility and not face some sort of repercussions ? Is it personal business or an administrator using his/her position and influence to gain something sexual from
staff ? Can the act(s) create a hostile work environment for other staff members on the unit/facility?  IS it professional ? We have heard both sides of the issue, whats your take and why? Post below. Remember, keep it civil and professional.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Will TDCJ find it even harder to fill empty vacancies after current ledge session ?

By Doug Glass, Backgate Website

With what looks like a mere 5% pay raise on track for TDCJ employees in the next budget year, and with only 1% of that going in employee pockets after a hike in retirement contributions, will an already sour hiring and retention rate go further south ? With the price of living going up at a rate that the state of Texas can't seem to match in employee compensation benefits, along with new retirement requirements that mean new hires will have to work until they are 62 years old to gain full retirement just may equal more vacancies.

 For instance, 19 year old employee hired on after September 2013 will have to work approximately 40 years before being eligible for full state retirement benefits. A move that obviously punishes younger employees that may wish to make a life long career with the agency. With growth continuing in private sector jobs, TDCJ may find itself in a pickle by this time next year. More mandatory overtime, more danger to staff forced to work short handed, and more taxpayer money spent to fix a seemingly simple issue of staff retention and comparable pay.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

TDCJ Officers to see around 1% pay raise if all goes well

By Lance Lowry, AFSCME

With the Texas Legislature releasing its finalized budget this last week, correctional officers question why their pay raise was only half that of other statewide law enforcement.  Lance Lowry President of the Huntsville American Federation of State County Municipal Employees, which represents Texas Correctional Officers, stated Monday that the State Legislature is treating correctional officers as the ugly stepchild of the Criminal Justice System.  Texas Correctional Officers will only receive  a 5 % raise over two years, while all other state law enforcement will receive a 10 % raise.  Lowry states with the raise split up over two years and an increase in retirement contributions, correctional officers will only see a little over 1% increase in their actual pay this next September. 
Lowry has attempted to address with the legislature the increasing staffing shortages which plague Texas prisons.  Staffing levels have fell to almost half the required officers at several Texas prison units.  Lowry states the current proposed increases fails to cover inflationary cost of living over the last two years and the legislature is being unrealistic on their attempt to address chronic staffing demands now in the thousands.  With energy production increasing dramatically in South and East Texas, Lowry states most officers can make twice as much in the energy sector and expects staffing to only get worse.
In the late 70's and 80's the Texas Prison System was plagued with chronic under funding, which resulted in the Federal courts taking over the prison system.  Lowry states the legislature and state leadership have signaled again they are incapable of properly running their prison system and states history is repeating itself.
Lowry states while most correctional officers are out of sight and out of mind, they do one of the most important jobs in our criminal justice system.  The job is hot, dirty, extremely dangerous, and is one of the most stressful jobs anyone can incur Lowry states.  Prison officers receive little recognition unlike police who are exposed to the public everyday.  Lowry states there is a clear wall of silence shielding correctional officers from the general public.
In February, 17 former prison guards were indicted by a federal grand jury after a 4 year investigation authorities dubbed Operation Prison Cell.  The guards are alleged to have help inmates commit crimes from behind bars at TDCJ's McConnell prison in Beeville, including bringing in drugs and cell phones to coordinate crimes outside the walls.  Lowry states while the majority of correctional officers are honest, the poor pay, lack of experience, and work conditions make prison officers more susceptible to corruption.  Lowry states current politicians making the decision were short sided by not treating correctional officers with professional respect.  Lack of loyalty and commitment creates an atmosphere for corruption.  Lowry states it's not hard to look south of the border and see what a low wage criminal justice system gets you.
Lowry states every time he visits the Texas Capitol he is haunted by the words of AFSCME's former Beeville Union President Daniel Nagle, who stated in 1999 while on the Texas Capitol steps, "Someone will have to be killed before they do anything about the shortage of staff in Texas prisons."  Two weeks later Officer Daniel Nagle was killed at the McConnel Prison Unit in Beeville by Inmate Robert Pruett who now awaits execution for the murder. 

Presumed Compliance and Training

By Bryan Avila, Backgate Contributing Author

Have you ever heard of presumed compliance? No? Well let me give you the cliff notes version: In the article “The Theory of Presumed Compliance” by Tony Blauer, he states, and I’m paraphrasing here, that based on our position of authority, we automatically assume that everyone is going to comply with our orders and be nice about it. When they don’t, we have a feeling of indignation at the fact that “how dare they!” not comply with what we told them to do. As a result of the presumed compliance, we allow our skill set to deteriorate over time and when we have to act we tend to fumble for a response (or at least it’s not as sharp as it used to be). Yes, he put it much better than I did but at least you get the gist of it.

Ask yourself this: When was the last time that you practiced your responses to various situations? Drawing your OC from your holster? A weapon? Anything? Some people would answer that it has been a while and although it is a shame, it is not uncommon.

Have you ever thought how long it takes you to react to a situation? How long so you think it will take you? After years in the law enforcement and corrections field I still remember what I was told when I first started in the academy almost 20 years ago: An average person can close a 21’ gap in less than 1 ½ seconds and it will take you at least that long to see the threat, recognize the threat and say “Oh SH*T!”

This same theory I have put into practice on many occasions. I will have one person stand 21’ away from the other. I will inform the “attacker” that they are to charge towards the officer when I say “go.” I tell the officer that as soon as they see the “attacker” start to move, they are to draw their OC and simulate spraying. I will also time how fast the “attacker” crossed the 21’ mark. Needless to say very, very, very few people ever get their OC out in time to even remotely simulate an OC deployment. Most people fumble while drawing their OC from the holster. The usual reaction that I have seen is that at least they start moving out of the way which is better than nothing at all.

Hick’s Law states that for every additional response that you have to a situation your reaction time increases by 58%. It is imperative that we train continuously in order to DECREASE our reaction time and have our reaction be a learned response vs. something that we have to think about.

In order to understand how we process information and our reactions, we have to look at how we come to decisions. Imagine this: You are driving down the road during rush hour traffic and you know that your exit is coming up. In order to get to your final destination you can take one of 2 exits. As you approach the first exit, you see that traffic is backed up onto the off ramp. You decide at that point that you will take the next exit since it will still get you where you want to go.

What just happened was this: As you are driving you saw the traffic backed up on the off ramp. The visual input went straight from your cornea to your thalamus where it kicked it forward to your frontal cortex. Your frontal cortex (where you make your informed decisions based on what you know) then sends the appropriate response to your amygdala which in turn executes the selected response.

Now let us look at a different situation: You are driving during rush hour traffic when someone cuts you off. Without even thinking you slam on the brakes, flip them off and yell out “F*** You!” What just happened was this: The stimuli went straight from your cornea to your thalamus where it was quickly redirected to your amygdala bypassing everything else and an automatic response was kicked out. The thought process was virtually nonexistent.

Why did this happen? Because of the learned response that we have developed to situations. We are either reacting based on learned responses (and these responses have been repeated over and over again where they are now automatic, almost involuntary) or we are making decisions based on what we know.

Now what does all this mean to us? It’s pretty simple if you really think about it. Offenders know when they are going to come after you. You only find out about it when it starts to happen. Do you have the time to stop and think about what you are going to do as a response or are you going to react with an appropriate response to the situation (and peeing yourself is not one of them)?

When you CHOOSE not to practice your responses on a continuous basis (and mental practice is almost just as good and the physical practice) you may very well be CHOOSING to leave the building via ambulance during your shift.

Bottom line…dust off the cobwebs and practice. The choice is yours as to how you leave the building. We all know that they will not always comply so don’t assume that they will. 

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.