Sunday, March 2, 2014

February Press Clippings for Texas Prisons

Here are a few news clippings of interest involving Texas prisons for the month of February 2014:

KCBD Invesatigates Sexual Abuse Claims at Monford

Lubbock - The Montford Psychiatric Unit ranks fourth in the country for facilities with high rates of sexual victimization claims.  The 100-page Department of Justice study reveals sexual abuse is on the rise in America's correctional institutions. In 2011 through 2012, nearly four percent of state and federal prison inmates claimed to have experienced some type of sexual abuse, involving either another inmate or facility staff.

Inmate Charged with Killing His Cellmate at the Michael Unit
Palestine - An Anderson County Grand Jury Indicted Harry Whitaker, 59, of capital murder for the 2012 death of Cresencio Vasquez at the Michael Unit in Tennessee Colony. Whitaker allegedly strangled his cellmate in 2012 and is currently incarcerated on a triple homicide out of Harris County in 1977.

Former Death Row CO / Attorney Talks on Use of Solitary
Dallas - Former Death Row Officer and Former TDCJ Attorney weighs in on the currently conditions on Texas Death Row and the use of solitary confinement. Steve Martin states in an editorial to the Dallas Morning News, "The problem with the current system is that death row inmates have no incentive to behave well, and that endangers prison staff. Misbehavior is dealt with by removing commissary and non-legal visitation privileges, along with property like radios. Meanwhile, compliance with existing security rules gets the prisoner nothing: just more of the same solitary confinement." Martin joins a growing number of correctional professionals who have called for the scaling back of the use of solitary conditions which can lead to offenders acting more aggressive and assaultive towards staff.



San Antonio - Karin Richmond is a former lobbyist, both in Austin and in Washington, D.C.. In 1983, while in her hotel room in Austin, Richmond was brutally stabbed more than a dozen times, her nose cut off, and blinded by her attacker, an employee of the hotel. Richmond successfully fought to change the victim notification systems requiring text alerts and was awarded the President's Commission on Peace Award at St Mary's University.

Greg Abbott Gets the Border Wrong, Prison Gangs are the Threat

 El Paso - While Barrio Azteca and other prison gangs in the state are framed as "Mexican" or "border" gangs, the fact is that many of these criminal gangs are not a product of Mexico, they’re a product of Texas—more specifically, they’re a product of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). Barrio Azteca was formed in 1986 as a prison gang in the Coffield Unit of TDCJ. The Coffield Unit is located in Anderson County, about 100 miles southeast of Dallas. As Abbott addressed El Pasoans this week, he added, "Our porous border is allowing ruthless cartels and violent transnational gangs to operate more freely within the state of Texas. "Gangs like the Barrio Azteca, the Texas Syndicate, Tango Blast and countless others are infiltrating schools across the state," he continued.


This undated photo provided by the Florida Department of Corrections shows a cellphone and cigarettes that were found inside a camouflage package, January 25, 2014, near an undisclosed Florida state prison. Prison officials in Florida and nationwide are fighting a different type of contraband being smuggled to inmates: cellphones.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - And while prison officials are trying their best to keep cellphones out, it's not such an easy task. Jamming cellphone signals is prohibited by federal law, and it costs more than $1 million each for authorized towers that control what cellphone calls can come in and out of prisons. Some prisons even have to police their own corrections officers who sometimes help inmates receive contraband.

TDCJ Adds $4,000 Bonus for Some New Hires

Huntsville - The Texas Department of Criminal Justice recently announced it would raise hiring bonuses for correctional officers signing a one-year contract to $4,000 for targeted rural prisons or those in areas where the department competes for workers with the booming oil and gas industry.

DPS adds gang member to Texas 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list

TDCJ Gang Member Added to DPS 10 Most Wanted

San Antonio - The Texas Department of Public Safety is offering a $10,000 reward for information on a Texas gang-member, wanted for failure to register as a sex-offender and parole violation. Benjamin Dominguez, 47, was recently added to the Texas 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list. Authorities say Dominguez has an extensive criminal history and is a member of the Barrio Azteca gang out of El Paso, Texas.

TDCJ Inmates Now Facing Problems Getting Married

Dallas - The road to romance is rarely smooth. But Texas prison inmates wanting to tie the knot have hit a particularly rocky patch after legislators banned most marriages by proxy last year. For decades, inmates have been able to marry their significant others by signing an affidavit to obtain a license and having a third party stand in for them during the ceremony.

TDCJ Director Announces Future Cuts to Some Use of Ad Seg

In a statement to the Austin American Statesman, TDCJ Director Brad Livingston indicates the agency will continue to cut their use of administrative segregation as they have done with the GRAD program and have already lowered the ad seg number to 7,200. In a statement from Jason Clark, the agency revealed last year over 1,200 inmates were released directly from administrative segregation onto the streets.

Two Aryan Brotherhood of Texas Gang Members Plead Guilty

Washington DC - Two members of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas gang (ABT) pleaded guilty today to racketeering charges related to their membership in the ABT’s criminal enterprise, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of the Southern District of Texas. Clay Jarrad Kirkland, aka "Diesel," 35, of Dallas, and David Orlando Roberts, aka, "Chopper," 36, of Houston, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Sim Lake in the Southern District of Texas to one count of conspiracy to participate in racketeering activity.

Victim Impact Statements are not Making it to Parole Board

Austin - KEYE TV has learned that from 2010 to 2013 crime victims submitted between 14,000 to 17,000 statements each year to county officials, but the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Victim Services Division reported only receiving around 3,000 each year.

A detention center's door is shown in Baltimore, Md. | AP Photo

Private Prison Racket

While privatizing prisons may appear at first glance like yet another example of how the free market beats the public sector, one need only look at CCA’s record in Idaho to wonder whether outsourcing this particular government function is such a good idea. Last year, a review of CCA’s staff records showed that prison employees had falsified as many as 4,800 hours over the course of seven months; they had understaffed the prison on purpose and fudged records.

TDCJ Contract Halfway House Walkaways Increases

Austin - The Austin Transitional Center, a halfway house where parolees serve the remainder of their sentences out of prison. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice allows parolees to stay in halfway houses if they have nowhere to go after they’re released early from prison. While parolees can only leave for pre-approved appointments like job interviews and doctor visits, the KVUE Defenders uncovered a dramatic increase of parolees walking away from the facility. From 2009 to 2012, walkaways from this Austin’s halfway house jumped from 90 to nearly 400. That’s a 328 percent increase.

Former Exonerees School Congress on Solitary Confinement

Washington DC - Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Charles Samuels had quite the embarrassing moment Feb. 25 when he couldn't give the Senate Judiciary Committee the dimensions of the average solitary confinement cell. Five Mualimmak knows the answer from experience: "It's about the size of your bathroom, and your rec area is like going into the shower for recreation."

How Conservatives Love Prison Reform

 In the early 1990s, then-Rep. Newt Gingrich unveiled one of the centerpieces of his new conservative agenda: putting more Americans behind bars. Today, Gingrich has changed his tune. "There is an urgent need to address the astronomical growth in the prison population, with its huge costs in dollars and lost human potential," Gingrich wrote in a 2011 op-ed in the Washington Post. "We can no longer afford business as usual with prisons. The criminal justice system is broken, and conservatives must lead the way in fixing it."

Did Texas Execute an Innocent Man

New York - New findings in a case being investigated by the Innocence Project uncovered a Texas case which was based on junk science and has recently revealed the DA prosecuting the case may have withheld a plea bargain with a jailhouse snitch during the trial. Mr. Willingham was convicted on charges of setting the 1991 fire in Corsicana, that killed his three children, and was sentenced to death the next year. The conviction rested on two pillars of evidence: analysis by arson investigators, and the testimony of a jailhouse informant, Johnny Webb, who said that Mr. Willingham had confessed the crime to him.

 A note scrawled on the inside of the district attorney’s file folder stating that Mr. Webb’s charges were to be listed as robbery in the second degree, not the heavier first-degree robbery charge he had originally been convicted on, "based on coop in Willingham." The former district attorney denies withholding evidence and stated there was never a plea bargain. Investigators working with the Innocence Project uncovered the photocopied note while examining Webb's case file which was never released to Willingham's attorneys.

1 comment:

  1. HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A former San Antonio rap musician has been executed for a knife attack and robbery that left a recording studio owner dead.

    Ray Jasper was injected with a lethal dose of pentobarbital Wednesday for the November 1998 stabbing death of 33-year-old David Alejandro.

    Jasper had acknowledged he slit Alejandro's throat to steal equipment from the San Antonio studio. But he insisted a partner was responsible for Alejandro's fatal stab wounds.

    Jasper's execution was the third in Texas this year. Another is set for next week before the state begins using a new batch of pentobarbital obtained through a different pharmacy.

    The injection came after lawyers for Jasper, who was black, argued a black potential juror at Jasper's San Antonio trial in 2000 was questioned and disqualified improperly because of race.