Livingston said TDCJ has found 132 cell phones so far on 22 units, including another one on death row, with 46 of those found patting down guards on the front end. TDCJ has also found tobacco 87 times during the lockdown, marijuana 25 times. Seven or eight units, said Livingston, accounted for the bulk of the contraband found.
Sen. Whitmire said that contraband is contributing to Texas' prison capacity problem because inmates are assigned thousands of extra years as punishment for contraband that's mostly brought in by guards.
In a debate over why TDCJ hadn't previously patted down guards on their way into prison units, Livingston told Whitmire that, because of the staffing shortage, there had been a concern that it would contribute to an oppressive environment for staff and limit retention. You mean if you found officers smuggling in contraband you'd have to fire them and you couldn't afford to lose that many people, asked Whitmire incredulously? Livingston backtracked to insist they'd been worried about good staff leaving because they didn't want to be searched, but Whitmire's interpetation is probably closer to the truth. After all, just minutes before Livingston told the senator they'd found 46 employees smuggling cell phones AFTER the lockdown was announced! There's no telling how many more they've lost over tobacco and other items.
Livingston said TDCJ is preparing a package of improvements aimed at reducing contraband smuggling costing about $30 million, including metal detectors and cameras, mostly targeting the top 20 units where contraband has been found.
See prior, related Grits posts:
- No final word yet on TDCJ lockdown results
- Contraband Update
- FCC has no authority to approve cell phone jammers
- Senate committee examines reasons for contraband smuggling
- Even death row not immune to contraband smuggling
- Guards and contraband smuggling in prisons and jails
- Chasing illegal cell phone use in TDCJ