Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Guards and contraband smuggling in prisons and jails

I'm not sure I've ever heard of a Rogaine-related smuggling offense before, but a former guard from a federal prison in Beaumont just received a two-year prison sentence after he "accepted money from inmates in exchange for marijuana, MP3 players, Rogaine and tobacco."

Cell phones are a more common and lucrative commodity. The incident reminds me of a recent New York case I noticed in which:
Two correction officers were fired for sneaking booze, cigarettes, marijuana and rolling paper to accused cop-killer Lee Woods. Another officer, a woman, is under suspicion of having sex with Woods and giving him contraband.
But of course, in state prisons the mother of all prison contraband cases is still unraveling at the Terrell unit south of Houston. The Back Gate recently posted these TV news reports on the topic to YouTube:

Low pay contributes to smuggling by staff; an extra $250 for bringing in a cell phone can mean a lot for employees scraping by on $2K or so per month. But there are also policy measures that would make a difference - notably searching staff on their way into the unit.

At the legislative hearing captured in the second YouTube video above, a CO predicted that if surprise searches were implemented at his unit, on any given day 8-10% of guards would turn around and walk away rather than submit to a search. Who knows if that's a correct estimate, but it's a disturbing one. If true, given TDCJ's staffing crisis it almost means the agency can't afford to rigidly enforce anti-contraband laws or some units won't have enough warm bodies left to stay open.

There's no more secure environment than a prison. If smuggling can't be stopped in that setting, no wonder it's such a struggle to keep drugs out of schools!


Anonymous said...

I'm glad somebody finally figured out that low pay is the problem.

Here in Austin we pay the cops more than anyone else and, as a consequence, we have absolutely zero problems with our police force.


Anonymous said...

Check out this blog, if you want to see a ton of more corruption.


Anonymous said...

Are they going to place TDCJ under conservatorship so TYC can fit right in? Two peas in a pod? The way it looks, TYC might just fall under TDCJ's supervision, and then what, more sex with inmates and drugs coming in the compound? We need to get it right in Texas. By that, we need a change of guard on both sides. Rick Perry and John Whitmire need to go. Period.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if any of the other units south of Houston are dirty?

Could it be?

And to think . . . I thought it was all good now that they had metal detectors on the units!

Although it sounds a little more blown up with TDCJ acknowledging serious problems at that unit, if the media would look at other units down there, they just might find a little more of the same.

The hidebound TDCJ bureaucracy can "deal" with this stuff so long as nobody knows about it, but if it all gets blown out in public, it could get real ugly for the agency.

Looks like Sen. Whitmire already had Livingston on the ropes.

Anonymous said...

But seriously, they don't pay the guards ANYTHING considering what they have to deal with and go through. Then they ban everything known to man from the Units (actually, I'm mainly talking tobacco) which creates black markets for things that aren't illegal in the free world (with less stigma for potential smugglers). But once a prisoner has a guard bringing in tobacco, the guard is stuck on the hook and will have to be in for a penny, in for a pound.

Anonymous said...

How about smuggeling some computers into TDCJ? Both the guards and inmates could get an education and find something more rewarding with thier lives.

Yea, I know it is supposed to be punishmnet. The problem is that all the citizens of Texas are being punished because of the high cost of incarceration in their Tax Bill. The fact is that punishment changes nothing!

Anonymous said...

If visitors are searched every time, why aren't the guards searched every time? To counter cooperation, randomize the searchers so that someone bringing in contraband won't know which guard will search him.

By the way, paying them better is no solution. Whether they make minimum wage or ten times that rate, they can still augment their income, tax-free, by committing crimes.

Anonymous said...

Whenever a guard is caught smuggling drugs into prison, make it a policy to sentence him to the very same prison. Turnabout is fair play. This policy would encourage guards to reconsider their sadistic tendencies and their propensity to traffic in narcotics.

Anonymous said...

There's a simple way to curtail illict cell phone use and that is localized jammers. Placing jammers within the pods with specific settings would instantly put the kibosh on the cell phone use.

Anonymous said...

This is why it was hard to keep a straight face when TDCJ investigators waltzed in to investigate TYC facilities last year.

DeathBreath said...

Low pay contributes to officer smuggling? Goodness, I think it has to do with poor training. I urge anyone who is considering a career in corrections to read, The Games Criminals Play. You NEVER give an offender anything without a cost. But, I've seen experienced officers get into trouble. Most of the time, it starts out small and then crescendos into more. I've heard of officers falling in love with offenders. Many have been fired because of their poor decisions. So, you have zero problems with your police force in Austin? Yeah, right! Pull you head out of the sand.