A former Department of Public Safety trooper sentenced last week to prison for stealing from Hispanic motorists, died at a Robstown private detention facility Thursday, state officials and the prison confirmed.
Michael Anthony Higgins, 42, complained of shortness of breath Wednesday night and died at 7:32 a.m. Thursday, according to Texas Commission on Jail Standards executive director Adan Muñoz.
Higgins was convicted in January of depriving several Hispanic motorists of their civil rights by stealing their money. ...
The state jail commission has asked for a death in custody notification form and several other documents, including an inmate screening form that was completed at intake and cell check logs, in relation to the incident, Muñoz said.
He was a sleazebag for what he did, but I wouldn't wish that on anybody.
This facility deserves closer scrutiny. Last year it failed an inspection and the Commission on Jail Standards threatened them with closure if they didn't rectify a long list of glaring problems, placing them on "at risk" status. TCJS chief Adan Muñoz declared at the time that the jail's management "borders really close to complete incompetence.”
In February, Texas Prison Bidness reported that 72% of staff at the facility, which is managed by LCS Corrections, were working under temporary jailers' licenses and had not completed (or in some cases even begun) testing and training. TPB notes that:
This insight about the amount of unlicensed guards at CBDC does not seem too surprising for this facility which was plagued with staffing issues in the past. In 2009 the facility had two rounds of layoffs. The first round released 35 facility employees from their jobs in order to compensate for their high rate of vacancy (and thus lower income). Then the facility hired more employees in order to compensate for a large influx of inmates that were supposed to help fill the facility, which resulted in an over-staffing problem and subsequently a second round of layoffs to the tune of 26 employees shortly after the prison failed their inspection and had a new Warden appointed. This facility's history of rapid employee turnover paired with every private prison's drive to profit makes the fact that the facility has 72% of guards still uncertified less shocking. What is shocking, however, is how a facility can even function with such a large percentage of untrained, untested guards.
So when a seemingly healthy inmate - someone who was a DPS trooper not long before - ends up dead and may have received inadequate medical care, it's hard not to wonder if the overwhelming number of greenhorn staff at the unit was a contributing factor?
TBD observed in February that, "The longer the facility goes without training these guards, the longer Nueces County is liable for the actions of ill-prepared prison guards," (emphasis in original). We don't know all (or really any) of the facts yet, but that may turn out to have been a particularly prescient observation.