This doesn't sound good - Texas prison employees were arrested at a record-setting pace in the first two months of 2006, reported the Austin Statesman ("Prison employees arrests continue to climb," April 23):
It might have seemed like a few tough weeks for Texas' prison system.
The system's former gang-enforcement chief pleaded guilty to sexually harassing employees. The personnel chief of the prison school system was arrested after being accused of lewd conduct at a Conroe park. A human resources official was sought as a fugitive after being charged with killing two pedestrians in an alleged drunken driving hit-and-run.
And three guards were arrested separately, one accused of raping a male convict, another of smuggling marijuana into a prison and the third of holding his ex-wife hostage at gunpoint.
Five weeks this spring saw almost two dozen arrests of correctional employees, on an assortment of felony and misdemeanor charges.
But it wasn't just a bad month. It was fairly typical for the state's 38,600-employee prison system, the second-largest in the country.
State records show at least 761 arrests of Texas Department of Criminal Justice employees in 2005. Another 148 arrests have been logged during the first two months of 2006 — a number that, if the trend continues, could set a record.
The number of employee arrests has steadily climbed during the past decade to a record 781 in 2003, the agency's statistics show, even as officials say the number of employees has remained about the same.
"Maybe it's bad luck, and maybe it's because we pay too little. Because we're 2,500 correctional officers short all the time, I guess we can't be too choosy about who we hire," said state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, which monitors Texas' corrections system. "Maybe the problem is where we built all these prisons. Maybe there isn't anything else to do out there but get in trouble."