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.