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.