After facing serious questions about how 900 prohibited cell phones were smuggled into Texas prisons this year along with drugs and weapons, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice found itself on the defensive again Tuesday while trying to find an inmate who escaped despite being shackled to a wheelchair.
TDCJ officials could answer few questions Tuesday about how convicted rapist Arcade Joseph Comeaux Jr., 49, managed to pull off a daring escape Monday from a prison van in Baytown after pulling a gun and handcuffing two transport officers driving him to another prison, stealing their three guns and walking away. Nor could prison officials explain how Comeaux obtained the gun he pulled on the officers or how he convinced medical personnel he needed a wheelchair for the past decade.
The chairman of the Senate corrections committee said the latest incident shows Gov. Rick Perry needs to shake up the state prison system and its oversight board.
Corrections Committee Chairman Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, received a threat a year ago from a death row inmate using a smuggled cell phone. Whitmire said Perry and the TDCJ cracked down on contraband shortly after that. But Monday's escape shows the system has again become lax, Whitmire said.
“Maybe it's time, with top state leadership, to consider a major shakeup in TDCJ,” Whitmire said. “It's time for the governor to take what should be the next step in making certain the chairman and TDCJ and his director and staff understand what zero tolerance really means.”
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