Tuesday, August 14, 2007

You get what you pay for, Part 2: Disturbance involves hundreds of Mineral Wells inmates at private prison

As though to celebrate the decision, within hours yesterday after the Parker County Commissioners Court voted to give control of the county jail to the private contractor CiviGenics, inmates at a private prison to the west in neighboring Palo Pinto County launched a disturbance/riot involving hundreds of inmates. The Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Facility, the Houston Chronicle reported today ("Inmate disturbance quelled at Mineral Wells private prison, Aug. 14), is operated on behalf of TDCJ by Corrections Corporation of America:

At 9 p.m. Monday, about 400 inmates refused to leave the recreation yard and return to their cells. It took about 3 1/2 hours and the use of "approved, non-lethal chemical agents" to bring the situation under control and get the inmates back into their housing units, Grant said.

On Tuesday morning, officials were trying to determine what prompted the inmates to refuse to leave the recreation yard, said facility spokeswoman Rose Thompson. She said officials from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice were on site as well to investigate.

"We're searching out those who instigated the disturbance," TDCJ spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said.

She said those found to be instigators will be transferred to other facilities and the findings of their investigation will be turned over to prosecutors for possible charges.

Corrections Corp., based in Nashville, Tenn., called in special response teams from Mineral Wells and neighboring facilities to help control the scene as about two dozen inmates refused to cooperate late Monday. The holdouts threw rocks, broke glass and tried to destroy property before they were brought under control, Grant said.

Mineral Wells police Capt. Mike McAllester said a report came in about 9:15 p.m. of "out of control inmates" at the facility, 40 miles west of Fort Worth.

About 30 officers from Mineral Wells and surrounding agencies set up a perimeter outside the prison's gates to secure the area, McAllester said. From the outer gates, he saw fires set within the facility but they appeared to burn out, he said.

What wasn't reported was that this institution has had problems before, including a fight two years ago that turned into a melee involving 200 inmates.

Part of it could also be the parole board's fault. As I've mentioned previously, this is supposed to be where offenders spend time preparing to be released on parole. But Parole Board Chair Rissie Owens refuses to abide by that convention, so it's just become a regular old prison. Perhaps setting expectations which are then repeatedly dashed contributes to the apparent, repeated problems there. Maybe that's something they should discuss at the annual meeting of the parole board tomorrow?

UPDATE: More from Texas Prison Bidness

24 comments:

Stu said...

I worked here from 1/06 to 6/06 when I was in between jobs. The instance that took place 2 years ago in 08/05 was a fight that started between a black inmate and hispanic inmate arguing over a chair in the day room. Each were belonging to a gang, and that's why it blew up into a full grown riot. Members of the hispanic gang were found and shipped off.

But this facility is on an old army base that closed in the 70's and the inmates are living in old 3 story army apartment style barracks. They are basically in really shitty college dorms. They have been threatening to riot since I was there, guess they finally got feeling froggy enough.

Anonymous said...

Corrections Corp - CCA - is regurgitating about what really happened. This particular incident should not have near verbatim press releases as similar incidents that have occurred in August of '05 and August of '06. An inmate phoned his family, of whom I am a member, at about 7 pm yesterday, Aug. 13, and stated that things were about to get out of hand as some inmates were angry about new management's new rules, which included being in a perpetual count and lockdown for the previous 2 days. He also stated that they had not been allowed to use the phone and had just eaten for the first time yesterday at about 6 pm. They had not been allowed their time in the yard and, thus were now refusing to go inside. They were now being forced inside with tear gas. In a subsequent phone call at about 9 pm, his voice trembling, he stated that a handful of prisoners were yanking toilets off the walls and breaking things. With yelling and loud noise audible in the background, he said the dorms were now being gassed and he had to go. He asked his wife to please call in the morning and check on him.

Anonymous said...

The news story I read quoted a CCA Spokes person as saying they were trying to find the cause.

Isn't it their job to know what is going on?

I know nothing and I figured out that the inmates wanted to stay outside. Probably because the Texas heat was worse inside than outside. This together with the information that the inmates time outside was limited probably explains a lot.

CCA knows what happened, they just hope it will all blow over! These private prison problems are not going to blow over.

At the end of the day, private prisons cannot save the state any money!

Anonymous said...

Obviously, the little shits don't need to be released back on to our streets.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 6:47.............

What are you writing about? What do you think CCA and TDCJ should do to avoid riots in the future?

Anonymous said...

They are frustrated because they are NOT being released from the PRE-RELEASE facility. You guessed it , Ms. Owens has the power as always to keep the prisons full. The "little shits" would like to go home as the law directs. These people are being "illegally" held past their time, would you not be upset? Of course ripping out toilets isn't the answer, but hey , it beats hurting each other . It has been over 100 degrees in Texas prisons without A/C , the frustration will only get greater , be watching for more riots.

outlawsprincess said...

I have not doubt in my mind that there will be more riots. I just pray for my husband and b-n-l. Ms. Owens needs to step down, and charges filed againat her. For what you ask?? kidnapping, unlawful detention, and just being down right mean. I wonder what she would look like in all white 2-piece uniform? yes, I know I'm dreaming, but if she and the board members can't play by the rules that the lege has set down, then they need to take their marbles and go home.

sunray's wench said...

Scott, I'm sorry to say, I told you so. I've heard of unrest at other units as well over the past month, and it's worrying not just because I am 'inmate family' but I worry for the COs as well who are told to deal with it.

What really makes my angry though is good old Michelle Lyons (who I saw on TV last night in her pre-TDCJ Spokeswoman role, when she was a newspaper reporter, explaining that at the age of 23 she had witnessed 15 executions in the course of her employment)saying we'll track down the perpetrators and move them somewhere else! Not, we'll ask them what the probelm is and see if we can fix it. That, imo, says everything about the TDCJ mentality and I dont like it. Inmates have no voice, they cant even vote when they are out of prison, so how on earth can they speak up for their own basic human rights? Rioting is all they've been left with. I certainly dont condone it, but I do understand it.

outspoken woman said...

Well, DUH, what do you expect when you send an inmate to a pre-release facility and never let them go home. Oh, yes, boys your are paroled but we want to hang on to you for another 6 or 9 months to see if you will act up when we toss you into barbaric conditions. It is just more of the fodder we get from the parole board in Texas.

Anonymous 6:47PM..whether you think these little shits need to be released or not, trust me when I say they will be released one day to live among us. They will probably leave with no rehabilitation or skills to help them become productive citizens, and as evidenced by their riot, they will leave angry at a system who says one thing and does another.

As one who works with prisoners and has personal prisoners, I fear the riot issue every day of the week on any unit in the system, not just pre-release units. With the guard shortage, those guards who do show up for work are over worked, underpaid, and weary. Their tempers are short and the target is inmates. The heat creates another level of rage in everyone on the unit, prisoners and guards alike, until I sit in terror that a riot will errupt and some will be hurt or killed. Few know that we have units where the guards in administrative segregation get their enjoyment by shutting downt he electricity so the men can't even have their fan move the hot, stale air. We have sick prisoners standing in the hot sun for hours at a pill window and we wonder why they get angry and frustrated.

I think each unit represents a possible powder keg ready to blow. The parole board releases few and the overcrowding continues. The parole board doesn't want to loose these terrible criminals upon the unsuspecting public, yet they will create situations such as Mineral Wells by not even following the damn rules.

Stay tuned...I think Mineral Wells is only the beginning of what might happen in this system. God be with our men and women in white.

Anonymous said...

Ms Owens should take her Ed and leave. She was supposed and told by the Legislature she was not to make parole decisions and she continues to do the same things she did. Senator Whitmire, time for you to again take her to task and this time take her out of the game and send Ed with her. No wonder Inmates get unhappy, she should not be allowed to refuse to release those who have been paroled and she needs to be removed from her position ASAP.

Anonymous said...

YES, OWENS LEAVE! BOTH NEED TO GET OUT BEFORE THEY ARE PUSHED OUT! SOMETHING IS TERRIBLY WRONG AND WHY CANT ANYONE JUST GET THEM OUT!! WHAT CAN WE DO? WRITE TO WHO OR DO WHAT? I LIKE ALL THESE RESPONSES BUT WHO IS DOING SOMETHING?

Anonymous said...

Those of you who say frustration of parole delays caused this riot are only partially true. I do work at this facility, and I can tell you what triggered it. For years, inmates have gotten away with cussing out staff, and not obeying direct orders. This week, an effort was started to put an end to this. Inmates are no longer getting away with walking out of their rooms wearing only their boxers. If an inmate fails to obey a direct order from an officer, they go to SEG. Plain and simple. To put it in terms an inmate, and their advocate buddies can understand, they ain't running things. This pissed them off, and they had a tantrum.

Anonymous said...

BTW Stu:

What we refer to as the Memorial Day Massacre (the fight over a table) happened before the Riot in '05. The riot in '05 started out as a Tango Blast hit in their usual fashion (30 inmates walking into a room, and beating up on one person). Except this time, their "victim" was ready. When the 30 battered TB's came running out of the dorm, chased by a sea of black inmates, the onlooking inmates from the other dorms assumed a race on race free for all.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@11:54 - So if you work at this facility, why did CCA tolerate inmatees cussing guards and disobeying orders?

And for HOW many years did this go on? Do you mean to say y'all let this happen pre- and post- the '05 riot?

If CCA tolerated this for YEARS before authorizing y'all to clamp down, as you say, then I'm surprised you blame the inmates and not the company, but to each his own.

Anonymous said...

Q: So if you work at this facility, why did CCA tolerate inmatees cussing guards and disobeying orders?

A:These are damn good questions Grits. I'll just answer them from an officers' stand point, and not some administrative hack, so these answers may not be officiallly correct.

Q:And for HOW many years did this go on?

A: These conditions existed as long as I have worked there. Almost half the time a problem inmate has been dealt with, a certain admin hack (no names, I still need this job)would reverse, or reduce the disciplinary sanction to "keep the peace".


Q:Do you mean to say y'all let this happen pre- and post- the '05 riot?

No choice from the officer end. We write them up/lock them up, and half get their hands slapped for the offense (ex: II/4.0, II/20.1, II/23.0, etc..)

Q/C: If CCA tolerated this for YEARS before authorizing y'all to clamp down, as you say, then I'm surprised you blame the inmates and not the company, but to each his own.

A: You are partially correct. The company itself has lots to blame for these conditions. But I guess a late attempt to fix a broken inmate is better than no effort at all. The worse thing that can happen as an outcome would be capitulation to these offenders. That would set a very bad trend.

The inmates do have a majority of the blame for this riot because the company did not throw toilets out of the dorms. The company did not light offices on fire. (Hell, they were cheap offices anyway). To put it plainly sir, with the respect due to a big house veteran as yourself, the inmates need to know their place. That was the bottom line on this riot. I am not a company man, but I am not a thug hugger either.

sunray's wench said...

I will ignore the "thug hugger" reference, simply because I would rather hear the real deal from someone with direct information, than second hand news from media commentators.

Could it be a little of BOTH causes for the disturbance? The fact that inmates' parole is not being administered in the way it was intended, COUPLED WITH a clamp-down on the enforcement of rules ? Maybe?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I agree with you Sunray. Even on the riot itself, by our correspondent's account the inmates were reacting to a arbitrary change in the daily norms that CCA had allowed to become established for many years, not correcting them even in the face of a riot two years ago and other problems at the facility.

Nobody at CCA set anything on fire, and inmates are responsible for their own behavior, but I think it's disingenuous to call the crackdown a "late attempt to fix a broken inmate." Sounds more to me like a short-term band aid on a festering problem that will go back to business as usual as soon as the media dies down. Until the next riot. Or perhaps the next one.

Perhaps our friend from Mineral Wells will agree that the Parole Board ignoring pre-parole's express purpose places inmates in a highly emotional and tense situation. Meanwhile CCA policies apparently give front line staff little ability to significantly discipline those who misbehave. That combination creates a lot of institutional responsibility for what happened, in my book, in addition to what the inmates did. best,

Anonymous said...

Grits:

This rules crackdown happened before this current riot, and I cannot see the powers that be relenting in face of the tantrum.

You are right on the money when it comes to TDCJ and what a pre-parole should be. I seriously doubt this will be rectified without changes in the highest level of the parole board. There are many offenders there who deserve their rms, a majority in fact. Let us do our jobs, and force TDCJ-PD and CCA to do their jobs.

Sunray:

The term "thug hugger" was not an assault to you by any means. A thug hugger is a manager/supervisor who deals with disciplinary problems through appeasement. Appeasement never worked in politics, and it sure as hell will not work with facility order, and safety.

If both of you are people of faith, I request prayer to the safety of those that work there, and the safety of those offenders not part of the problem. May this become just another interesting story for everyone to laugh about in the future.

Take care.

mami osa said...

my husband is at mineral wells. he is not a little shit, he has busted ass for three years to do the right thing and come home to me. he is an S2 trustee, allowed to work outside in the community. Before mineral wells, he was at a trustee comp, with no locks or fences. mineral wells is the worst place he has been. they are only concerned with making money for their shareholders.( there is a sign in the visitation room sating this as a "guiding principle") he has lost 20lbs there because of the tiny portions and crappy food. we can't afford commissary. he is being held in segregation pending transfer back to tdc. they plan to charge him with 'intent to hurt staff and inmates" and who's word will they believe? not his. they need no proof, no evidence. the apppeals process is a joke. he will be charged and loose his status, his good time and his chance to come home to me in march. he has no record of violence in his past, and in fact was commended as a trustee in county for saving two officers from an inmate attack. One of the officers required hospitalization. who will hear my voice in this? who will help me or speak for my man? no one. I am alone in this. I go to work and raise our child and pray every night that god keeps him safe, I write every day. I have never missed a visit in 3 years. He has played by all the rules and not a damn bit of it matters because there is no justice in the system. i no longer believe, i just survive.

mami osa said...

okay, i was a little emotional writing that. i have all my life been a law abiding citizen and this world is so alien to me. i was so naive, i believed that the law always did the right thing. my husbands letter came yesterday. we had just moved and the letter was delayed by the post office so i am a week behind the world hearing this news. i drove up to mineral wells as usual to visit on saturday and was informed there would be none, we live four hours away and knew nothing of these events. he told me about the riot in his letter. he was mostly concerned about me and that i would have been upset not hearing from him and about him losing good time. he told me " i broke nothing, and hurt no one. i was just trying to get out of that gas and find some air to breathe. " he is sick that after doing everything right , he still loses all he has worked for. I tell him it's like that in the free world too sometimes. we still have each other and i'm too stubborn to give up. cca is corrupt, it is true that the inmates can get anything in there. many of the have cells phones. he would tell me what a temptation it was to call me and i told him i would hang up. the guards bum cigarettes off the inmates. the gangs are so bad that even the volleyball teams are gang against gang. they, the gangs, have a good thing going with the protection racket. you can jion or pay "taxes" with the easy access to cell phones, the have the inmates family memeber sent it western union to their connection on the outside. some days you are scanned with a metal detector, other days , nothing. they never scan below your waist. as a citizen, i was shocked by how lax they were. tdc is much stricter. at tdc, your driver's license must match the visitation list exacyly, one letter or number off and you don't get in. at cca, they admit people with sam's club cards. it is a stiff and terrible price to pay, but my comfort is that he'll be back in tdc. where they attempt to enforce the rules. thank you thank you thank you for who ever said god be with our men in white. i have often told him that we fight our own war that no one will commend us for. i tell him how pround of him i a m each day he does the right thing. i fight my own battles when i have to tell people my husband is in prison and i am immediately branded as a lowlife, scum and a lawbreaker. at best i am pitied for having married such a loser. i know i am ramblimb but you have no idea how it feels to have a voice, to speak, to be heard at last. i don't have a computer and desperate for news i am on the one at work forgive the typing but thank you all for hearing me even those of you who don't agree. i feel like i have been silently sceaming for so long and at last some one has heard. i love you guys for that.i'll tell you what i tell my papi at the end of every letter "be safe, eat your vegetables and come home to me.

Anonymous said...

For those this matters to:

The inmates got their first hot meal since the lockdown today. They are running limited commissary. No word on visits yet, but as soon as I hear something, I'll post it here as a courtesy.

Take care.

Anonymous said...

corporater36

I agree with Mami Osa, my husband is in mineral wells and he has done everything he is supposed to do. he even worked for the head of security at one time. he has taken his classes, kept to himself. he's caught no more charges and now after this riot and only having 1 month before he gets out ( 9-23-07) there he sits in segregation. I am out here struggling with 2 kids trying to make it on my own and was so excited that my husband was finally coming home and now this. also they are not allowing any visits for anyone at this time. my mother in law called up there and no one is getting visits. the whole place is in lockdown. they wont tell us what happened or what is gong to happen. all they will tell us is that he is still there. this place is a joke. how can they call this a prison. its a shithole and these people may have done wrong but they dont deserve to have to live the way they do there. now i to am worried what is going to happen to my husband. i ask that everyone pray for those with family there and they still get to come home. they dont deserve to be locked up if they didnt do anything wrong and i know for a fact that my husband was not involved in this riot. i just need him home.

Anonymous said...

The facility is following a TDCJ lockdown schedule that they were nice enough to give us. Each of the four weeks are considered phases. We are now in week two, which is why hot meals and limited commissary are starting up. What I mean by limited commissary is a ten dollar limit on hygien items only. The next two weeks are supposed to bring back more privileges. I wish I brought home a copy of the schedule so I can post it in detail.

Now that catch is that if anyone acts up during the lock down which caused a big disruption, we go back to week one which included showers and laundry every 72 hours, johnnysack lunches, and no commissary.

Now, some of these guys have been cleared in their hearings, so it is not a full blown inquisition. All you can do for now is lots of prayer.

For those of you on the other side of the bars, the officers are holding up to the twelve hour shifts for the time being. Most of them are used to pulling sixteen hour shifts anyway.

Tke care.

Only a few inmates have been acting like knuckleheads since the lockdown began, and they have been getting the express lane into seg.

Anonymous said...

corporater36

i just found out my husband has been found guilty of having something to do with this riot. he was taken to court already, he was not given the opportunity to have a court appt. lawyer or to get one of his own. they did not allow him to face his accuser, but his accuser ID him "over the phone" what kind of crap is that. he also had 3 witnesses that gave statements that would prove he was not involved and they did not submit then at his court hearing. he is now in transit housing and has lost 782 days of good time and has went from an S3 to a G1. does anyone know what a G1 is?? i ask that you all keep him and me and my kids in your prayers. my husband has been railroaded by the Mineral Wells C.C.A. Unit. i am left speechless and feeling lost and alone