Even more interesting to me, the mother of an inmate was convicted and sentenced to 19 years for paying several TDCJ guards to smuggle cellphones into the Stiles unit in Beaumont. I find the case particularly notable because I've never heard of a prison guard receiving such a long sentence, and indeed the guard who received most of the money was sentenced to a few months in prison and "shock probation." Reported KFDM-TV:
Over 134 money grams totaling over $16,000 came into Watt’s possession during 2007, most of them traced to friends and family of inmates in the Stiles Unit in Beaumont. Watts, in turn, paid out almost 40 money grams totaling over $13,000 to former TDCJ correctional Davisha Martin, and numerous other money grams to several correctional officers employed at the Stiles Unit.Not only did Ms. Martin receive a relatively light sentence, the other guards implicated apparently weren't prosecuted at all.
Martin was caught attempting to smuggle in three cell phones on October 1, 2007. Receipts indicating that Martin received money from Watts were found in Watt’s car, and an investigation by the TDCJ Office of the Investigator General uncovered the extent of the scheme. Martin was prosecuted and served a short prison term before being granted “shock probation” in February of 2009 due to her pregnancy.
Certainly there's nothing wrong with prosecuting civilian sources of contraband, but surely prison guards engaged in smuggling deserve even steeper penalties. After all, many family members on the outside may want their loved ones in prison to have access to a cell phone for a variety of reasons, both criminal and benign. But it's smuggling by prison guards that allows those desires to be realized. Taken together, these sentences reiterate the message that prosecutors will throw the book at prisoners' families over contraband, but only slap wrists of those in uniform who accept bribes and smuggle in illegal items. That pattern all but encourages smuggling by prison staff, who pretty much know up front they're unlikely to face significant penalties besides losing their jobs.
See related Grits posts:
- TDCJ units with most cell phone contraband discovered
- Sound staffing policies, lower inmate numbers, not high-tech gadgetry best solution to contraband problems
- On the relationship between high employee turnover and contraband smuggling at TDCJ
- 'Outlawed, cell phones are thriving in prison'
- Breakup of contraband smuggling ring implicates prison guards
- Unusually stiff sentence for contraband smuggling in small-town Panhandle jail
- Zero tolerance on TDCJ contraband hasn't worked. What now?
- NIJ: Solutions to cell phone contraband mostly "expensive and labor intensive"
- Chasing illegal cell phone use in TDCJ
- Cell phone trafficking in Texas prisons
- Guards and contraband smuggling in prisons and jails
- Texas prison guards smuggle cell phones to inmates
- Even death row not immune to contraband smuggling
- Has TDCJ learned the right lessons from death-row cell-phone scandal?
- Few prison guards fired, prosecuted for contraband smuggling