Sunday, November 15, 2009

TDCJ on recording death row visits: Policy? What policy?

Yesterday I got back a response to my public information act request to TDCJ (following another one, under separate cover, from the Office of Inspector General), stating that, "Pursuant to a diligent search of agency records, we have determined that no responsive information is maintained by the TDCJ in regard to your request. Here's what I had asked for:
  • Any TDCJ policies regarding recording of conversations during death-row inmates' non-attorney visitations, including any policy describing how often recording occurs, under what circumstances, whether every call is recorded, what is done with the recordings, who has access to them, how long they're kept, what documentation must be maintained, etc..
  • Any log or record of recordings from visitations for now-deceased death row inmate Cameron Todd Willingham.
  • Any log or record of who has accessed or listened to recordings from visitations for now-deceased death row inmate Cameron Todd Willingham.
  • The tape or audio file (in whatever format it's maintained in) of any recorded visitations with Cameron Todd Willingham during the month before his execution.
So we are to understand from this response: First, TDCJ has no written policy regarding recording death-row inmates non-attorney visitations. Really? They're set up to record every conversation if they choose to do so. Can it possibly be true that there's no policy on when and how that's done? Do they really just make it up on a case by case basis as they go along?

Second, taking them at their word, either TDCJ did not record any visitations with Willingham - including the one where his ex-wife has given conflicting accounts regarding whether he confessed - or they do not keep logs of whether or not inmate visits are recorded.

The latter explanation seems hard to swallow - there are too many security reasons you'd want to record death-row inmates' conversations and later be able to recall the recording. The example of Richard Tabler comes to mind, who smuggled letters out of prison that contain threats against State Sen. John Whitmire's family. Do you really not want to monitor that guy's non-attorney visitations? Can it possibly be true that there is no policy regarding when, how, and at whose instigation that should happen?

That's what I'm to believe from a letter dated Nov. 10 from Patricia Fleming, Assistant General Counsel to TDCJ. Maybe that's a question the Senate Criminal Justice Committee should ask the next time they haul Brad Livingston in front of them to talk about contraband and death row security.

16 comments:

TDCJ EX said...

TDCJ keeps a log of all visitors to all offenders on all units . It is part of the offenders file which is kept to indefinitely.

A offender on Death watch is moved to on A Pod . About a week or two before the scheduled execution the will be placed in a camera cell .


TDCJ Keeps a execution watch log that begins at 6 a.m. . Seven days prior to the scheduled execution. The offender is observed and all his / her actives logged every 30 minutes . And every 15 minutes 36 hours the36 hours prior to the execution .


This would include any visits an. The idea that TDCJ does not record visits is not remotely believable. Any one who has been on that unit can tell you no way a visit with a death Row offender is not recorded . Polunsky can and does record visits . For very real security and legal reasons . That most any reasonably intelligent person can think of .

Obviously TDCJ was told not to release any information
A internet search or TDCJ execution watch procedure or policy will bring up much more .

To get what are legally public records in this particular case probably would mean expensive legal wrangling Until Goodhair is gone and laws are changed.

Maybe a nice catch 22 for Goodhair & company . They either have recordings and refuse to release them or have a serious security problem on Polunsky supposedly the most secure prison in Texas .

Anonymous said...

Grits wrote:

"First TDCJ has no written policy regarding recording death-row inmates non-attorney visitations. "

Then you should be able to follow the state of Texas law about recording audio conversations, which I believe is legal as long as you are one of the participants in the conversation.

Anonymous said...

Hey Henson, I got a taste of what TDCJ does when they were in TYC - before they got marched out and rightfully so. Instead of calling it "policy," try an open records request for any administrative memorandums relating to this issue. TDCJ's so called administrative memo's are their policies. That's how we were trained to "cover our asses" when TDCJ infiltrated TYC during conservatorship. Straight up from their mouth. I was disgusted.

sunray's wench said...

Like TDCJ EX, I find their responses unbelievable at best, and incomprehensible at worst. Keep digging, Scott.

prisonmovement said...

Funny how DOC's across the nation think that the public is stupid- thats how I take it. They make up rules as they go it seems. Take a gander at whats going in Alabama now: The Alabama Supreme Court ruled eight weeks ago on Sept. 18 that the agency could not withhold reports on crimes committed in prison. Those records have YET to be released! Also in the case of Patrick Swiney- his widow has been requesting his death records since the end of July- still nothing!! read more here: http://prisonmovement.wordpress.com/2009/07/24/correctional-medical-services-since-when-do-their-nurses-decide-who-gets-medical-care/

Boyness said...

It's way too convenient for TDCJ to say no such policy exists.

Anonymous said...

TDCJ is its own government, they dont have to listen to the taxpayer, they dont have to abide by their own rules and regulations. Most importantly Gov. Perry could give a rats ass what happens in TDCJ.

Boyness said...

Anonymous said...

TDCJ is its own government, they dont have to listen to the taxpayer, they dont have to abide by their own rules and regulations. Most importantly Gov. Perry could give a rats ass what happens in TDCJ.

11/16/2009 08:00:00 PM
----------------------------------
Very well said. The only time Perry cares about TDCJ is when the bad press is the lead story on the 6:00 news, i.e. contraband.

Atticus said...

Shocked. I'm shoc! Shocked that TDCJ-ID might lie to you.

Anonymous said...

When Death Row was on Ellis I, we kept a log of every visitor no matter who they saw. Also, we recorded the license plate of every visitor vehicle that passed through the gate.

TDCJ EX said...

Annon 7 :13 is right TDCJ routinly uses " admistrative memorandums " to cover thier asses . What is policy on one unit might not be on another.

A example is go see how Polunsky and say Estelle are run the go to The female units a in Gatesville or Marlin . They are run very differntly . None are easy places to be though . Just run differently .


I routinly heard a convict who was moved to Polunsky be told by a boss That ws there this is Polunsky Get used to it . Or the Im in grey you're in white who is going to be believed BS .

Wardens and other adminstation types have fairly wide latitude to run things as the see fit . As long as they have the appearnce or sembalnce of being with in TDCJ policy and other legal standards .

They frequently use the all purpose cover all of Securty of the Institution excuse that covers just about anything they wish . That could make it hardtoget said memos.

I know all Death Row vistors, who they visted and when is logged . The Booths used for visting Death Row convicts are the same ones used for convicts in seg . Many of whom are STGs ( known gang members ,those with a history of escape and or are know to be invloved with contraband ).

After seven Death Row convicts attempeted to escape from Ellis 1 .One did get out and die by drowing in nearby river. This along with a few rapes and murders committed by a few Death Row convicts . They were moved to Polunsky. So that they could be monitered much more closely .

If TDCJ does not record vists of high security risk and Death Row convicts is both not credible .

If they do not is iresponmsible and a serious security breach that could have potentialy deadly results for both convicts and employees alike. This would particualrly true when a convict is facing execution anda stay is highly unlikley at that point thier attitued could well be what do they have to lose ?

TDCJ has long known that a number of what are called Death Row Gruopies and dirty bosses or rank have intorduced all kinds of contrband into Death Row .

It was well known among convicts on Polunsky that they have been recording Death Row and seg vists sice Death Row was moved to Polunsky .

Any one who thinks Convicts do not know what goes on is either naive, watches too much Lock UP type shows and has not done time or all of the above . We knew when a lock down was coming before bosses did !

Hint, this has to do with TDCJ relying on convicts for almost all it's labor out side of bosses medical/ psych and mail room staff . TDCJ does not pay convicts fro any work at all . for those who do not know


There is no reason to belive they would conviently stop recording Mr Willinghams vists in his last days .

The Tabler incidents are just the most publizied problems With Death Row .

Dig more MR Henson It is much more than death row or the death penalty .

Anonymous said...

Scott is a Jack Ass!
Remove That

sunray's wench said...

I'm wondering if perhaps TDCJ records everything but does not KEEP those records? TDCJ is very good at sticking to the letter of the law, so if the law only requires them to record something, once it is done, there is no legal requirement to keep those records, maybe even for more than a few days.

Or perhaps TDCJ has been told by the Governor's Office or their legal team that requests of this kind are exempt from the public information laws. We know how good his office is at misinforming people of what is correct and what is not. Just ask Rissie.

TDCJ EX said...

Sunray TDCJ Keeps a permanent file on all offenders That would include executed offenders . This is done , in case they return , in case of litigation including on behalf of a executed offender .This is for legal reasons such as the Willingham case where there could be other potential legal matters one way or another . This I know for a fact .

My guess is some one gave out more CYA bad advice Not really surprising .

Some ome please r let the public know the names of the Goodhair Administrations legal counsel team So they can be avoided if they set up private practice

Anonymous said...

I think you should follow up with the Texas AG, Grits.

Public records said...

Instead of calling it "policy," try an open records request for any administrative memorandums relating to this issue. public records TDCJ's so called administrative memo's are their policies. That's how we were trained to "cover our asses" when TDCJ infiltrated TYC during conservatorship. Straight up from their mouth. I was disgusted.