This reminds me that 46 guards last fall were caught smuggling cell phones onto Texas prison units during a lockdown aimed at removing contraband. One wonders what punishments they received after implementation of TDCJ's new "zero tolerance" policy?
Texas prisons are a virtual bazaar of prohibited and illicit goods smuggled in by guards and correctional employees who have rarely faced harsh punishment when caught, according to a Houston Chronicle review.
Nearly 300 employees, many lowly paid correctional officers, were reprimanded for possessing prohibited items at 20 prison units with the most pervasive contraband problem between 2003 and 2008, records show.
Of the 263 employees disciplined solely for contraband, about three-fourths (199) were given probation, where they were placed under special scrutiny for specified periods. Thirty-five were fired; 26 received no punishment at all. One of the 263 was criminally prosecuted for the contraband, but served no prison time.
It appears contraband cases are not being aggressively prosecuted, the Chron reports:
Gina DeBottis, head of the prison system’s Special Prosecution Unit, has sought to prosecute 68 prison employees for contraband since 2003, filing more than 90 charges. At least nine cases were dismissed after indictment for various reasons, and grand juries refused charges in three other instances, records show. The rest are pending, she said.Unless those cases are mostly from last fall, that seems like a long time for so many prosecutions to languish.
I've written before that "zero tolerance is not a policy." Declaring "zero tolerance" doesn't tell us if an employee will be reprimanded, fired or prosecuted for smuggling contraband - it's just a media soundbite, and one that seems increasingly meaningless the more we learn about how TDCJ actually deals with staff engaged in contraband smuggling.
If Texas prisons weren't so understaffed, maybe TDCJ wouldn't feel the need to keep employees caught smuggling contraband on the payroll just to minimally cover its shifts.