Sunday, July 08, 2007

Phones in prison "a marvelous tool for discipline"

So says Rep. Pat Haggerty (R-El Paso) in today's El Paso Times:
Haggerty said he hoped the bill would provide prison staffers with another tool to reward and discipline inmates. He said it could also provide families a chance to more easily stay in contact with their loved ones behind bars.

"It has proven, in almost every other state, to be great crime fighting tool," Haggerty said.

The other great thing about increasing phone access is the increased likelihood that threats, abusive treatment (by guards or other inmates), corruption, and poor prison conditions will be reported by prisoners to the outside world. Plus the victim compensation fund gets a chunk of the profits (though I'm not sure it's proper for inmate families to be required to compensate victims, that's how the law is written). For those actually serving time in Texas prisons and their loved ones, this arguably was the most important new law passed at the Legislature this year.

See also prior Grits coverage of new legislation requiring secure, tamper-proof phones to be installed in Texas prisons by September 2008.


Anonymous said...

I am all in favor of these phones. I am also concerned that there doesn't seem to be anything in the law to ensure that TDCJ does not abuse their ability to use this as a decliplinary tool.

The guards could deny phone use to inmates that report illegal treatment or conditions. The guards could use the phones as an additional tool to manipulate inmate behavior so they can continue to "sell" cigarrettes, cell phones, drugs and other forms of contraband.

TDCJ has a year to figure out how they are going to use this new decliplinary tool. It is extremely important that they communicate with other states and determine what the "best practices" are for declipline.

There should be clear rules published so inmates, guards and families know exactly what to do and what not to do. These phones are for the good of inmates, their families are paying for them.

Careful planning could avoid a lot of problems as the phones become available. We'll see if TDCJ is up to the task!

Don said...

Prisoners already have phone access. this is just to give them more and easier access.

Anonymous said...

Don, the existing access is a collect call every 90 days at an unspecified time chosen by the prison unit . If the recipient of the call is not available , that is it for another 90 days . That is not exactly access to phones . As for what the guards could and could not do as far as "disciplinary tools", that is not a major issue . All other States have regular phone access and no major problems . It is time we accept this great new tool for prisoners and their families to stay in touch with the positive attitude it deserves .

Anonymous said...

Don, Helga is right, except that not every eligible inmate gets to even try and make a call every 90 days. The average seems to be once every 18 months or so at the moment.