More than 200 cell phones have been confiscated in state prison cellblocks since a system-wide shakedown for contraband ended in November, almost twice as many as were seized during the lockdown.
Eight of the phones were seized from death row, where the crackdown started after a condemned two-time murderer called — and then threatened to kill — a powerful state senator.
“We’ve got some hard questions to ask about the zero-tolerance policy they supposedly put into effect,” said Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston.
“What do we have to do enforce zero tolerance? What we see doesn’t look like zero tolerance. Obviously, I’m still concerned.”
In truth I don't think "zero tolerance" can ever be more than a slogan in a prison system the size of Texas', just like I don't think it's possible to completely "seal the border."
The best that can be done is to implement systemic safeguards, checks and balances to try to vet as many points of access as possible, and identify inmates possessing contraband through use of informants, periodic sweeps, or other means. But zero tolerance is a sound bite, not a policy. Clearly TDCJ continued diligently searching for cell phones and other contraband after the systemwide lockdown ended last fall, but the reality seems to be that more comes in about as fast as they can find it.