Thursday, January 28, 2010

Zero tolerance on TDCJ contraband hasn't worked. What now?

At this point, IMO state officials concerned about stopping contraband at Texas prisons should cease using the term "zero tolerance." It has no meaning at all and makes those who use the term appear incapable of achieving their goals.

This week we learn of a death row inmate who'd taken a picture of himself with a cell phone and had it posted online. This after an inmate last year used a smuggled gun to escape from a TDCJ medical transport - a mystery they still can't solve.

Perhaps Sen. Whitmire should be thankful that the inmate who notoriously contacted him by phone in 2008 didn't send him sexting photos!

I'd don't care what title is in front of your name - Governor, Senator, TDCJ Executive Director, or for that matter, POTUS - announcing a "zero tolerance" policy on prison contraband sets up the person using that language to later be accused of gargantuan failure, as in the case of the escapee with a gun more than a year into TDCJ's zero-tolerance era. As long as prisons have existed in human history, contraband has been smuggled into them.

"Zero tolerance" cannot succeed at its stated goal because human ingenuity (as well as human depravity) is unbounded and government resources are not. The use of the phrase "zero tolerance" for contraband reminds me of its frequent use in response to drugs or graffiti: It sounds good to the public and it certainly indicates someone's upset about the problem, but just saying it don't make it so. In the real world those activities still occur and what's really needed are systems for managing the problems.

Similarly, what's needed at TDCJ, in addition to existing on-the-ground tactics for finding contraband, are separate management-level systems (with authority to require policy improvements) to evaluate each failure and adjust tactics to combat each new smuggling method identified. New incidents should be viewed not necessarily as a failure that requires punishing agency officials (unless it turns out TDCJ staff were directly culpable and violated the law), but as an opportunity to learn and adjust over time in a formal, systematic way. In other words, what's needed is a process, not a slogan; a system, not just an attitude.

17 comments:

da_fixer said...

I could not agree more. For several years now, Senator Whitmire has ripped the TDCJ Administration apart. Stating even he could do a better job running a unit and stopping contraband. Well, I say get off your high horse and work a post. I believe he will find it’s so much easier to talk about problems than it is to fix them. During the past year the majority of the upper administration for TDCJ has changed. I think we should give all of them an opportunity to address the issues before we fire them all. Those new administrators are all good people and if allowed will make those necessary changes and rewrite policies to adapt to the ever changing correctional environment, positive change will happen. It is however time to look at Livingston and Collier and try to determine if they are the best people to lead the agency. From my perspective, their efforts have been far too reactionary. TDCJ needs to be led from its current state and I do not see Livingston or Collier with that ability, but only time will tell. And, time is something TDCJ does not have.

Anonymous said...

It is the line staff who are punished when there is a negative outcome or a 'zero tolerance' attitude is adopted for political reasons. Take a look my friend at the employee disciplinary statistics since the Tabler incident and the Comeaux escape. It's all they know.

BB

sunray's wench said...

Perhaps TDCJ should consider what they mean by "contraband". I know there are security issues behind every item not permitted to be held by an inmate, but I would think that some items are more dangerous in some hands than others.

Perhaps those who are openly affilliated to gangs should be housed together. If they want to beat the living daylights out of each other, let them. But separate them from those who want to do their time and go home, and instigate a better system of rewards rather than punitive punishments across all inmates regardless.

Contraband will always be in prisons. You have more of it when more things are classified as contraband. Its not so much about inmates not following the rules anymore, as officials making up the rules as they go along.

Michael said...

I've spent close to 13 years in the TDCJ, and I can tell you how to solve the contraband problem. It's simple..., pay the inmates a living wage. As it stands, many of the prisoners, who have lost family support and join gangs for camaraderie, don't even have the ability to buy toothpaste, shampoo, and deodorant (items that are NOT provided to them). The only way for them to have minimal items such as coffee and Ramen noodles is to come up with a "hustle." Some sel art work, others do legal work, some tattoos, other tobacco and/or drugs. It's the ONLY way for some to have ANY means of obtaining life's necessities.

I also had the privilege of spending 2 and a half years in the Illinois Dept. of Corrections. They don't have a contraband problem. In fact, they don't have an extortion problem, an office3r corruption problem, and violence is almost non-existent. They treat their prisoners with respect, programs for improvement are in place. They pay a living wage, beginning at $20 a month. If they work well, they can be promoted to a job making $30-40, or even as much as $275 a month. These are life lessons that Texas prisoners are not forced to learn. By the way, last year Illinois reported its lowest rate of recidivism in the State's history!

Anonymous said...

An LBB Employee has what qualification to be the Executive Director of TDCJ?

What happens in Texas at least every 24 months?

Why does John M (OIG) continue to "beat his head" against a very solid steel wall (I feel that using "Brick" in this instance is not adequate)?

What Now?

Answers: None; official legislative session in session again; senseless tenacity; SOS or same old stuff.

Retired 2004

Anonymous said...

Amen Bill. You can go all the way back to the so called "Mass death row escape" at Ellis. One got over the wire, was shot, and expired. His body was recovered several days later in the Trinity River. That "attitude" has been exhibited for years!

Retired 2004

jan said...

Re: Michael's comments. I couldn't agree more. Teach people how to earn a wage! Carrot/stick. But that all goes back to REHABILITATION and sadly, the great state of Texas just wants to INCARCERATE....45 days and counting until this nightmare ends for my family.

Anonymous said...

My point exactly. An outside agency such as hospitals have...JCAHO. TDCJ needs a similar system.

sunray's wench said...

when the media report "contraband" in TDCJ, they almost always mean cell phones, drugs and weapons. Do the general public know that "contraband" also includes having more than 60 postage stamps at any time? Or anything at all that has been altered from its original design or purpose, such as a popsicle stick used to hold a string "washing line" away from the wall so that sheets can be washed by an inmate? Or a spare State-issued shirt?

Officer, not Boss said...

Zero tolerance isn't a goal or an achievement--it's a policy statement. TDCJ doesn't tolerate contraband in any amount or in any form. The statement doesn't imply we have zero contraband in our units, we simply say we have no tolerance for it. From a policy/rule point of view, there is no other option.

As to the problem of contraband itself, we acknowledge that it exists. We take steps to make it difficult to smuggle contraband into a unit. When people do try, we take steps to intercept it when possible. We are not as successful as we would like. Contraband still gets in to the system. Each time we discover it, we find another way to prevent it. And those determined to bring it in, go back to the drawing board to find yet another means or method to circumvent our efforts. It's a cat and mouse game--no different than any other smuggling effort anywhere else in the world. Where there is a market, there will be suppliers.

TDCJ also acknowledges that the majority of contraband is supplied by our own employees and contractors. We can improve our prevention and detection methods, but until we improve the caliber of people we hire, contraband will continue to be a problem. Well-educated, well-paid, professional-level employees are the only real solution. For many years TDCJ has hired and cultivated exactly the opposite kind of employee. The chances of turning that situation around in the immediate future are nil. In the interim, we will continue to work with what we have, the best way we can. We will not always meet your expectations. When the people of Texas, and the legislature are ready to take the system up to the next level, you won't find many TDCJ managers complaining about it--we're just as impatient as you are.

TDCJ EX said...

First there will never be zero contraband in any prison any where . TDCJ and any prison system must know that some contraband will always get past any system . That does not mean contraband is acceptable but where TDCJ 's priorities should be focus the most attention in stopping most contraband.
Also TDCJ and the state of Texas have to begin prosecuting t and incarcerating dirty buses for the same sentence anyone else would receive when they introduce contraband

If TDCJ wants to hire better qualified people first it has to be able to do so . Currently doing that would be extremely expensive. That means PPP paroling much more than they currently do. Alternative sentencing and not just for drug crimes. Reducing the overall prison population will make it easier for to get rid of corrupt bosses and rank. As well as fully prosecute them. Have hiring standards of other than being 18, and no criminal history. One step they could take right now is to increase the hiring requirements to being at least 21, with at least an Associates degree rather than being able to count to 100 and spell a few simple words. Can anyone say that an 18 year old has a chance against a 30 some odd-year-old convict who knows the system and is in far better shape than the average boss sorry to sound harsh, but far too many bosses are horribly out of shape which also creates problems because they are unable to respond to appropriately to emergencies.



Simply raising pay is not the answer is the type of person taking the job and who they are morally not. There are those who make billions, and still acting antisocial ways. Bernie Madoff, and Ken Lay come to mind and there are lots more where they came from.

Sunray does have a point that lots of things that are considered contraband. Are not not drugs, cell phones and firearms. If a prisoner tries to fix their radio that can easily break. They will catch a case if their ID is "damaged"according to whatever boss happens to see them as they catch a case. If they have so much as one envelope without their name and number on the upper left-hand corner. They catch a case, if they have a book without their name and number or from the unit library. They catch a case. Yes I know why those rules were made . But they are not applied appropriately fairly consistently, or logically. For example , a boss including the 18-year-old new boot who does not like particular convict can write a contraband case. If the prisoner has not put their name and number on a single envelope that they had just purchased minutes ago at store. For those who don't know prisoners and TDCJ go to commissary to times a month and have a schedule on which they go.
So , it would be obvious that a person probably was in a Harley because they have a limited time in which they can do this and simply did not put their name and number on whatever petty item vindictive the vindictive boss saw . A lot of trafficking and trading as it's called in TDCJ is for commissary items not contraband despite what bosses. Rank and TDCJ will have you believe. For example prisoner A will trade a few shots of coffee with prisoner B. For say one stamp or whatever the current going rate is. Another example , a prisoner has a friend or loved one send in a photo friend or loved one in the free world forgets to put name and number on the back of the photo. , That can be considered contraband. All of this artificially inflates the contraband numbers in TDCJ. Why well, I'll leave that for people to think about that it shouldn't be hard to figure out.

TDCJ EX said...

Should have included that most contraband is introduced via dirty bosses and rank . Because they have the most contact with prisoners, are rarely searched and if they are searched it is another boss searching . Just lie cops, bosses and rank a have a gray wall of silence and very rarely report any violations or crimes committed by bosses and rank .

The typical attitude a prisoner and freeworld friend loved one gets from a boss in TDCJ “I am in grey you are in white who is going to be believed? As in bosses and rank can do what ever they want .with out fear of any adverse consequences in most instances it would have to be both caught on video and irrefutable for a boss or rank to get in any trouble !


Bosses or rank who are owned by a prisoner regarding contraband, the convict is usually a gang member The boss or rank will have no choice but to do what ever they are told to by the gang that owns them and they will know about the boss or rank on almost every unit . They . A dirty boss or rank is the most dangerous person in any prison . If people no matter where they are, care about some one either doing time in TDCJ or is a honest hard working boss the dirty boss or rank puts them in danger every day ! It is up to those who care to force TDCJ and TX to prosecute bosses and rank that break the law with impunity. It is in every ones best interest to punish them harshly .

TDCJ has to not only admit that bosses and rank are the major soucre of contrbandbyt show it By Having them prosecuted and sent to TDCJ for the same time any one else would get for example 60 years for a cell phone would be a nice start If bosses knew they were going to do lots of time in a TDCJ unit maybe they will think twice . Just getting walked off is not enough getting arrested and walked away in cuffs and shackles might make a­n impression on those tempted to make some “extra cash” . We all know how well bosses and rank do as inmates. It takes a number of people to get most contraband into prison .not just a visitor who TDCJ bosses and rank have been so focused on all this does is make it easier for dirty bosses and rank to bring in even more contraband !No one is paying attention to them . Visitors have become a easy scapegoat as they usually have little recourse and they and or their loved one face retaliation if the report dirty bosses and rank .

If any one want to look into TDCJ and Contraband start with bosses and rank. It would make one hell of a investigate journalism article an. Not to mention open lots of eyes .

Boyness said...

TDCJ doesn't have control of the state's prisons because it does not want control. The free market reigns and officers and offenders alike are making money. TEXAS IS A JOKE!

Anonymous said...

"Boyness"

Welcome to Boyness. Everything and anything that is hot, steamy, sexual and passionate about gay boys.

ORLY? Damn, sounds like you might just wanna go ahead and have a seat right over there... Mr. Hanson will be right with you and THEN you can see things from the "inside out" in the TDCJ ;)

Boyness said...

Anonymous said...

"Boyness"

Welcome to Boyness. Everything and anything that is hot, steamy, sexual and passionate about gay boys.

ORLY? Damn, sounds like you might just wanna go ahead and have a seat right over there... Mr. Hanson will be right with you and THEN you can see things from the "inside out" in the TDCJ ;)

1/30/2010 08:30:00 PM
-------------------------------
Would you get over your veiled threat, I'm SICK OF IT. You, obviously, spend much more time in TDCJ than many on this board and simply cannot live with or accept the fact that you and your trashy brethren have NO CONTROL over the facilities or offenders like you think you do.

YOU ARE PART OF THE JOKE but it takes someone intelligent to realize that.

The problem in Texas is anonymous cowards and trash like yourself far outweigh the outstanding officers who are professional and go to work to do a professional job.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

have a seat right over there

----------------------------------
WE'LL ALL BE BETTER OFF WHEN ASSHOLES LIKE THIS HAVE A SEAT IN THE UNEMPLOYMENT LINE!

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