Saturday, March 29, 2008

Deadly riot at federal prison in South Texas could have been prevented with adequate staffing

Was understaffing at a federal prison in South Texas responsible for yesterday's prison riot? It seems likely.

Only 13 guards were on duty to oversee 1,160 inmates at a medium security federal prison in Three Rivers when a riot broke out yesterday, leaving one inmate dead and 22 injured. That's an 89-1 inmate to staff ratio. (See coverage from the Corpus Christi Caller Times.) A union representative said "the incident could have been prevented if the prison was more adequately staffed."

At Texas jails, by contrast, 48-1 is considered minimum staffing, and I've long thought that ratio is too high to ensure guard and inmate safety in every circumstance. At 89-1, when the s%*t hits the fan, guards can do little but run for their lives.

I've been paying attention to chronic understaffing at Texas prisons and jails, and the state's response, but it sounds like the problem may be even worse (and the prisons therefore even more unsafe) at federal facilities, if this absurdly high inmate to staff ratio is typical.

MORE: From the SA Express News blog describing the wounded and injured from the riot coming to San Antonio for medical treatment. The Houston Chronicle coverage also blames staff shortages for the incident. The New York Times' coverage notes that this is the second violent incident resulting in a federal prison lockdown in Texas in three weeks, the earlier one occurring at a facility in Houston.


Anonymous said...

The scariest part of this is that TDCJ is at least as understaffed. The hot weather is coming, I fear for inmates and staff alike. This kind of tinderbox spreads quickly. I really hope Huntsville is paying attention at all.

Anonymous said...

13 staff, sounds like evins, they can't get people to show up either. it's just a matter of time before somethings pops down here as well.

Anonymous said...

It is only the federal governments fault. Their hiring expectations are that if you have any bad credit they will not hire you. I know from experience, I have been in corrections for over 10 years and have applied at a federal unit and was not hired due to my credit rating. Yes, I have had some tough times financially but am a committed correctional officer. Those federal units are left to hire young and inexperienced correcctional officers who have no credit problems. Unless their hiring practices change those units will continue to have those staffing issues.

The Abolishment Movement said...

Why don't they release some of the non violent offenders, who have already done more time than they would have anywhere else.

Anonymous said...

This evidence that prisoners and staff cannot be kept safe unless there is adequate staffing has very little chance of changing anything.

How many will be injured or killed before our elected officials wake up and do something about the cost of their tuff on crime policy?

How long will the voting public insist that it is OK because prison is supposed to be hard?

Prisons cannot be a place where capital punishment is likely and medical problems are ignored!

Human rights must be provided for everyone, even prisoners. That means the guards must be able to protect the health and safety of prisoners!

Anonymous said...

Well, geewhiz, let's see. You can now go work for the border patrol without a high school diploma or GED.

Anonymous said...

my thought is that there are a lot of people that are put there because of ( oh my GOD!) re-entery into the U. S. and that has really over flowed the system. my husband for one could face up to 20 years for coming back to be with me ! i know it was against the law but, why so much time , at best he will get 3 years.why mix murders with lower level offenders? this is also the problem. i know alot of people will say " that's what he gets " but have you ever been to MEXICO? that's okay because we will both be living there,it's not so bad.

Anonymous said...

this in not just about the deadly riot it's also about how some people are treated differently. i know of a lady who had no legal stateus to be here and because she was trying to sell pirated d.v.d's and was forgot about in jail , somehow, she has a green card. well i look at it all people should be treated the same for the same crime. this is one of the reasons i think there was a riot, people not being treated right.