Friday, March 06, 2009

How effective are TDCJ shakedowns at finding contraband?

Reacting to this item from the Department of Criminal Justice's Connections newsletter, Duane Stuart at The Back Gate, a prison guards' blog, says that patdowns for guards and new restrictions on food and other items staff can bring onto TDCJ units are little more than security theater:
The Back Gate's View: Ok, good PR, but how are the shakedowns effective when you have that unit's correctional officers shaking down friends and co-workers? How good are the searches? Is it the fox guarding the henhouse? We think TDCJ is merely plugging the hole in the dam by using thier pinky finger. Just a few months after the the phones turned up on death row, guess how many more have been found statewide after the " stringent searches". Your answer.... hundreds. So what has been effective? So give us a break TDCJ. Come clean and correct the issues before it once again hits home.


Anonymous said...

Duane Stuart is a cynic and is merely spreading discontent. Corrupt staff members will always identify ways to introduce contraband into a secure facility, but the enhanced security measures have deterred many from making such an attempt. The real, long term solution is not more pat downs or additional technology. Modern technology is only as good as those who are in charge of it. Corrections must embrace labor quality in order to evolve and progess as did law enforcement in the 90's. We must screen applicants physically and mentally as do many other DOC's, and ensure we are only hiring suitable people. This will begin to repair the damaged relationships in TDCJ and address poor labor quality issues in the near future. When you minimize the number of unsuitables and change the culture, you minimize corruption.
TDCJ leadership is doing the best they can with limited resources. Elected officials have not really invested in the Texas prison system since the expansion in the early 90's. It is the hope of many that they approve the pay raises for TDCJ staff so that the leadership can then begin to repair the damage which has been done over time.
Duane Stuart should join with the majority of the TDCJ staff members who actually appreciate the searches that help to control the corruption for now. Doing anything is better than doing nothing at all.


Anonymous said...

If the staff are pat searching other staff the same way that they pat search the visitors (as I experienced this weekend) then it is no wonder that contraband is still entering the prisons at such a high rate (note: you wont stop it all, ever).

TDCJ should enlist the help of airport security personnel to instruct the officers on how to search civilians - it is not the same way as how they might search an inmate, for example, it may be ok to always search an inmate from behind for safety reasons, but it is NOT alright to search a civilian from behind by pressing yourself up against the civilian's back and randomly waving your arms across their chest.

I have no problem with the searches, I'd just be happier if they were done properly.

Anonymous said...

This is all well and good that we are doing pat downs of the guards, but the sad part of this is, is you have guards bringing in drugs to make money and giving it to the inmates. There is very little "rehab" given in the TDC units as it is. In fact most are being thrown in jail for minor drug crimes and alcohol related crimes by over zealous judges just wanting to up their records of convictions instead of placing these offenders in something that could give them real help instead of locking them in prison to sit and unfortunately possibly becoming worse offenders when they get out, instead of possibly rehabilitating. It's a very sad situation.....overcrowding, underpaid CO's, shortage of CO's, and very little "rehab" is a formula for disaster. I have someone in prison at the moment for a minor alcohol related offense and I know first hand what his ummm "rehab"'s laughable, it's non-existent in fact. I feel for both sides of this coin. The bigger people out there need to wake up and smell the coffee so to speak, but it will take a lot of people speaking up and writing to our politicians here in Texas....The TDC needs a shaking down of itself and not so much each cell or dorm.

Anonymous said...

anon @ 12.44 ~ have you never wondered why just about every other state has a Department of Corrections, and yet Texas had a Department of Criminal Justice? They are not in the business of 'correcting' anything, and if this is justice then it is indeed criminal.

Anonymous said...

It use to be called "TEXAS DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS" Then all of a sudden its called "TEXAS DEPT. OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE" Does that mean a longer name tells people that they are serious on "criminal justice" no. that just means they wanted a longer name.

to BB~ Mr. stuart is not a cynic and is not spreading discontent. He is telling the truth. TDCJ use to be really hard to get in to. But after the lawsuit they HAD to build more prisons and had to staff them.

In order for TDCJ to hire "suitable" people, they first must raise the pay. Texas is 47th in pay.

TDCJ needs to get better leaders.

Anonymous said...

Duane Stuart is suggesting that the shakedowns are not effective because of the amount of contraband being found. Is he not aware that the reason for shakedowns ais to find the contraband? The amount of contraband being found is evidence that the shakedowns are working. There will always be contraband. We must continue to do a better job of finding it.

Anonymous said...

Professionalizing the corrections field in Texas is the solution to the contraband problem. Thorough background checks are the greatest prognosticator to screen out corruption.

I agree with you BB, employee quality control is the issue. Unfortunantly with TDCJ officer pay being one of the worst pay scales in the nation, this is not going to change overnight.

It didn't help that yesterday Debbie Riddle the Chair of the Appropriations Select Committee on Crimial Justice believes that a small 5% raise for officers over the next 2 years will solve the problem. She called TDCJ's proposal a for the full 20% raise a "wish list" item.

The Senate Committee quickly disagreed with Debbie's committee and proposed to embrace the entire 20% raise proposed by TDCJ. These guys in the senate have been keeping up with the prison issues.

Debbie quit worrying about border security and worry about the prison security. The prisons are closer to your house than the border. Those big white buses rolling through your district every day carry dangerous convicted felons Debbie. More people in East Texas are killed from inmates than migrant workers. Secure our prisons first.

Some of our prisons need new fences, but some politicians in Texas would rather spend that money on a border fence. A border fence might be a good thing for Mexico, it could help keep out dangerous fleeing felons who escape Texas prisons from entering into Mexico. I'm sure the President of Mexico will thank you Debbie. I'm sure a border fence will also supply jobs to people in Mexico, who do you think is going to build the fence???

Anonymous said...

From my view being on the other side of TDCJ . There will always be dirty guards and adminstration better known in TDCJ as a boss and rank . Waving a few grand cash in someones face is very tempting andadds up fast if thedrity guard /rank brings in lots of contrband

There is only one way a cell phone got into Death row on Polunsky . That is rank or a (boss) brought it in for a few thousand . The SSIs did not ,do it a vistor did not do it . A vendor did not do it .

The best way reduce contraband get new cameras and permantly record everything . Prosecute the guards andrank who bring it in and have themdo TDCJ time . This is rarely done .

Before you can raise thier pay you have to get rid of all the corrupt staff . Once a guard is "owend" by prisoners he /she will always be doing what ever those prisoners want

BPP has to start meeting it's guidlines and stop handing out set offs for nature of offense , time after time . If they met thier guide lines there would be less need for guards maybe even close a few units . Then TDCJ could start to think about a pay raise maybe even have the funds to do so .

Why is TDCJ not sying that most of the is found on a few about 10 - 12 out of 112 units and very little on the womens units ?

Anonymous said...

If you were on the other side of the fence then you know that professional officers are the hardest to bride. Convicts look for easy targets to mule stuff in.

Convicts look for that single mother who can't make ends meet, or one of your old neigherhood buddies who is a "COOL BOSS", or that young kid straight out of high school who also wants to be a "COOL BOSS."

With a group of more professional officers, they tend to stay longer and do nothing to associate themselves with a "thief." With higher pay and better recruiting, its easier for prison administration to get rid of some of these "COOL BOSSES" instead of just trying to keep a warm breathing body in a court mandated position.

Cameras are a waste of money!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Contraband can be hidden in the inmate's food tray while off camera or while the dirty "BOSS" has his back turned to the camera. With dirt "BOSSES" knowing they are on camera, all they have to do is find a blind spot and conceal contraband before its passed. I.E. in Food Trays, Towels, Paperwork (I-60's, I-127, I-128), or even in the mail that they pass out.

For some reason I think the last poster is a camera salesman and not a former "convict."

Anonymous said...

What truth hurts " bossman" you. If are boss You sound just like one never ever take repsonsiblity always blame the convict .
If you are a boss you know damn well that all prisoners are thourghly strip searched before and after vists. You know it would take the arm and accuracy of a NFL quatrerback to toss something over a 18 - 20 ft razior wire topped fence with out being seen and have it land in a specific location.

No matter what means it ends up in the prisoners hands a drity boss put it there 95 % of the time .

If you dirty bosses did TDCJ time for introducing contraband I bet it would slow down real fast . When a boss brings in contrband the put every one in danger .

The fact is almost all contraband gets in via a drity boss or rank . Too bad if bosses and rank wont admit it and don't like it being made public . TDCJ needs to admit it has a huge problem .

You don't want cameras because you have something to hide . If not what are you so afraid of getting cuaght doing something you should not be . Don't like working for TDCJ get a job at burger world if they will hire you .

No one made you become a boss you chose it for a reason .

Once again the only way contraband gets onto Death Row on Polusky is via a drity boss or rank . That is the reality of the problem .

I have seen all kinds off bosses and rank get owned it is very easy. Any one can be bought or owned . Even so called "proffesional" ones .

Cameras will also help stop abuse that bosses commit as routine policy . Maybe that is your fear "bossman" . If you have nothing to hide what is the problem ?

Your reaction actually speaks for it self you guys just do not want to be held acoutable and think your job is to dish out punishemnt as you see fit .

Your contmempt for those you allegedly watch over is disturbing and telling .
If you don't like it quit no one is keeping you there .

Making fun of some one does not make you right .

Anonymous said...

Surely cameras would add to everyone's safety though, if nothing else? I accept that there will be blind spots, but after a while you forget that the cameras are there and people behave as if they are not. That is when they become invaluable, not to stop things happening, but to give a more accurate report when things do happen.

Anonymous said...

My point is this. The main way into a prison is through the front door. CAn we aree on that? If you have corrupt staff shaking down corrupt officers than whatsthe point of shaking down. A certain percentage gets in through the back gate, but the convicts will tell you themselves how its coming in. OIG is so backlogged with cases, it cant crawl out from under the pile.

You have 18 year old kids manning the front line against 40 year old convicts that have spent thier entire lives conning people. Tell me where thats a fair matchup?

i fault TDCJ's leaders for the situation. Even without money, they could have easily set up contraband interdiction teams before now. Before the news agencies made them. Brad Livingston would make a great accountant at foot locker, but as a director for TDCJ, he is out of his league.

The next thing is equipment. About 9-of ten hand held metal detectors are broken or not working right when they scan you. The officer is merely going through the motions with it.

Others are not even trained with it and wouldnt know what to listen for if they heard it.

Duane Stuart

Anonymous said...

To The Camera Salesman:

I don't doubt staff is involved in bringing in contraband, that is very well documented. I doubt that cameras would slow that contraband down.

Without professional staff who is going to monitor the cameras?? Rank is too busy with ACA paperwork and the drama caused by a group of unprofessional staff. The officers for the most part could care less, because they are there to do their 8 and hit the gate. OIG is too busy investigating a ridiculous case load.

Maybe TDCJ can get inmates to watch the guards on the video cameras. Thats if the cameras work and stay working. Once something like a camera breaks in TDCJ, its hard to get it repaired.

And that is the truth. I don't mind cameras, but how useful are they if no one is there to watch them?????

Hire professional staff first and then get the cameras.

Anonymous said...

Like I said above you have a lot of fingers pointing in all directions except at themselves. You have to pay the guards more or what can you expect...just like the accountants who end up embezzling money from their companies because they can...until they are caught. You will have guards who are underpaid and having some money flashed in front of their faces if they bring in contraband then hey why not. We are ranked 47th in the nation as the lowest paid, but we are tops when it comes to throwing every little petty crime in prison. TDC is overcroweded, understaffed and the staff we do have are way underpaid for the job they have. I have someone in prison at the moment and I am saying there has to be more than a shakedown. I recently visited the Sanchez unit and my husband is a TDC inmate there. The "searches" I saw of the guards coming in was less than what I received and I saw quite a few over a 2 day period. I was also searched each time I came out of the bathroom and my husband was searched each time he went to the bathroom as well and told me he would be strip searched once the visit was over which he was when I went back the next day he said he got a thorough "going over". The guards were wanded and had to remove their belts and such, but never once did I see a "pat down" like what I received. What I keep reading about from ex-guards is when you become a TDC guard you become one of the "good ol boy" network and you turn your head and keep your mouth shut about anything you witness or you can suffer consequences by your other co-workers and this is all over the nation not just in Texas. SO when you have this coupled with severe under pay what are the guards supposed to do? All the big boys and girls out there are pointing their fingers every which way but at themselves for not doing something proactive and getting this under control a long time ago. Also you have these judges who are throwing petty non-violent crimes into the already overcrowded prison system instead of looking at alternative sentences such as rehab, community service programs for a couple of examples. You have minor drug and alcohol related offenses being put in prison and these people aren't given any kind of rehab to possibly keep them from repeating these offenses. A lot come out and become worse offenders because of what they dealt with on the inside.
I want to set it straight I'm not for the guards or the inmates here, I feel for both sides because I know there are good guards out there trying to do their job with very little pay and I know there are inmates in there that aren't "bad" people, instead they are good people who have problems and made mistakes and would have possibly benefited from rehab if they would have been given that opportunity instead of being sentenced to go sit in prison without anything other than do a job, take a class and sit and think about what you did. It's a shame all the way matter how you look at it or which way you try to twist and turn's still the same....overcrowded, underpaid, undertaffed and no one really doing anything to make it better.

Anonymous said...

To wanna be bossman

One I do not sell cameras and I get paid more than you now kind of funny actually .

There is no such thing as a professional guard. All you are is a guard .The use of Officer I gives the job far to much dignity and importance . The title was once guard and never should have been changed . to “ correctional officer” Guards do not do any correcting they guard and supposedly prevent things like escapes, assaults , murders , rapes and contraband not bring it in . Or as they do encourage or provoke all of the mentioned problems

Like I said any one can be bought or owned it is not hard to do . As was pointed out once you become a guard /boss you are a good ol'e boy and every one looks the other way .Having guards search guards is like Duane said having the fox guard the hen house . Have you read every comment here of just selectively read them .

You really do not want cameras because you know eventually you will get caught . Hell I want them on 24 / 7 and every conceivable angle I want audio too ! While they wont catch every thing they will eventual catch things not just contraband the abuse that is part of TDCJ would be caught and that is what you if you are a boss are really afraid of getting caught abusing a prisoner and you know it . The you not have to be monitored all the time either . .But then The recording can be subpoenaed and gotcha there is the indisputable evidence .

Whether you like it or not hey are morel than likely coming back .Then the bosses complained about being searched . Well it is called implied consent . You are entering a secure environment/ facility You know those big red signs even tell you of his fact at the entrance of every TDCJ unit .

Cameras are if you bothered to read my and other posts are just part of the solution but you just want more pay , good luck with that in a deep recession nearing depression

As for cameras out side independent agency should run and watch them not TDCJ . Again they are one part of the solution not all of it .

Each person offers suggestions .it would take a long time and a to of space to make every suggestion .Maybe things like searches and cameras scared the bosses because they know they will eventually get caught . Like the dirty sgt at Coffield and what about Stiles and all it's problems almost all caused by guards and rank ? Oh I could go on about bosses and rank almost endlessly .
Of course you never read the paRT about BPP actually meeting its numbers did you Oh that might mean less boss jobs .

Yeah TDCJ needs new leadership but first Rick Perry has to be voted out . Livingston is not going anywhere so long as Goodhair is Governor

annon 11:31 is onto something

Anonymous said...

Rick Perry needs to wake up...instead of just having his face on the TDC website. He needs to be fully involved in what is going on, but as usual they promise everything prior to getting into office and afterwards they are there for their own interests and the ones who line their pockets. Funny how they do a state wide lockdown of the prisons to look for contraband, but for the most part the contraband is coming in via the guards. Let's face it nothing will be done and the contraband will keep coming in because you have co-workers searching each other in a "good ol boy" network....see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil...can you see the visual of monkeys in guard uniforms...sorry just what came to mind, because that seems to be the norm in all prisons across the US. There needs to be accountability. The TDC is one of the worse run businesses and yes it is a business (just look at how much money is given to them and tell me I'm wrong) also how much money the families have to spend putting money on their loved ones books...not to mention the prices they have to pay for these items. I'd like to see where all the money goes that the TDC gets....sure doesn't go towards better food for the inmates or their health care, or rehab programs and seeing what TDC pays the guards...not there where is all this money going??? Why don't you answer that one Mr. Perry???? I do a lot of reading and researching, plus have a loved one in prison as I have seen and read a lot about what is and isn't going on with the TDC.

Westasy's Lady

Anonymous said...

Thanks Sunray and Anon 7:44...I do not pretend to be an expert here on any of this, it's all through what I have read from all kinds of sources and just from experience of having my husband behind the TDC walls as an inmate. There are all walks of life behind those walls and a lot of good men and women who have problems and made mistakes....I know my husband should have been given the chance to go to a rehab facility instead of prison, because he isn't getting the help he needs....just like when I told his court appointed attorney he was piss poor because I sat there and heard him tell the judge, "I want to get rid of this case" when he didn't even step foot in the jail to consult with my husband prior to his hearing or even knew anything about him other than what was in his file....he was put out because my husband kept asking him to go to the DA to see if he would accept this offer or that offer (what an attorney is for in the first place) but this guy wasn't getting paid big bucks therefore wanted to "get rid" of this case and said it in my presence. I was outraged...I told him later what I thought of him and that every person being brought into court DESERVES to have fair representation PERIOD! My husband didn't get it....basically he was his own attorney and the attorney was his gopher....he was the one to ask the attorney to go to the DA and ask the sentence be reduced from 3 to 2 yrs and he would sign the 2 yr. which he did. I just feel that judges are throwing everyone in jail or prison because it looks better on their record of convictions.
As far as the problems with TDC...oh my I could go on and on. What it boils down to like I said in my anon posts 3/6/09 12:44 and 3/09/09 11:31 and then the last one I signed Westasy's Lady is exactly what it is....overcrowded, understaffed, underpaid and no rehab at all among a few of the problems. The big boys out there need to be held accountable for a system that has many severe problems and no one who will take responsibility to try to get a plan going. I read where one gentleman wrote a report and presented it to them and it made a lot of sense, but I bet you it fell flat. Funny how Mr. Perry comes running when the Texas border is being threatened by the Mexican Drug Cartel, but when you have prisons that are rioting and inmates dieing at the hands of guards and prison gangs nothing is done, because as usual the inmate must have done something wrong...right? I know my husband has received threats from a gang of inmates and he asks to be moved or something to be done and the answer he gets is....shut up or lock up....or if they start a fight with you, then you will all get a set off with parole....when all he wants is to do his time and be able to come home in one piece.

Step up Perry! Step up and take responsibility for the place you so arrogantly put your face on the something now!

Westasy's Lady

Anonymous said...

Let's do a study and see how many cell phones can be hidden by inmates in Henson.

I'm betting over a hundred.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm well we could do a study on how much stuff can be hidden by inmates all over the country....but how do you think most of it's getting in??? Especially cell phones.....Guards.

Westasy's Lady

Anonymous said...

This says it all.....

Workers who smuggle goods rarely punished harshly | AP Texas News | - Houston Chronicle

Workers who smuggle goods rarely punished harshly

© 2009 The Associated Press
March 14, 2009, 11:10AM

AUSTIN - Guards and correction employees who have smuggled prohibited and
illicit goods into prisons rarely face harsh punishment when caught, a
Houston Chronicle review found.

Between 2003 and 2008, records show that almost 300 employees - many lowly
paid correctional officers - were reprimanded for possessing prohibited
items at 20 prison units with the most pervasive contraband problems.

Of the 263 employees disciplined only for contraband, about 75 percent were
given probation. There were 35 fired and 26 who got no punishment. One of
the 263 was criminally prosecuted for the contraband, but served no prison

Contraband trafficking got national attention last fall when a death row
inmate used a smuggled cell phone to threaten a lawmaker. The phone was used
by fellow death row inmates to place nearly 3,000 other calls.

The newspaper analysis found smokeless tobacco to be the most popular
contraband linked to correctional employees, followed by cell phones and
Other smuggled items include hamburgers, knives and drugs.

John Moriarty, inspector general of the state's 112-unit prison system,
called contraband "the biggest security problem the prisons face."

Reviewing five years of disciplinary records, the newspaper found that until
recently, guards who brought contraband into the system were more likely to
get minimal penalties than be fired.

The Stiles Unit in Beaumont, the Michael Unit in Tennessee Colony and the
Allred unit in Wichita Falls had the most documented incidents involving
workers and contraband.

While top prison officials have called for zero tolerance in stamping out
prison contraband, it "doesn't mean someone is terminated," said prison
system spokeswoman, Michelle Lyons.

"It means it's addressed and is dealt with accordingly. In some cases,
depending on the contraband, the fitting punishment is probation or
suspension," she said. "In more serious cases, where the facts support that
the person intended to introduce contraband to an offender, then it's dealt
with possibly by termination. "

But in 2003 a correctional officer at the Estelle Unit was given 10 months
probation and suspended for four days without pay after his backpack was
found to have knives, prescription drugs, a cell phone, two electric razors,
a box blade, a lighter, a set of portable radios, cigarettes and cigars.

Another correctional officer with an otherwise clean record at the Beto Unit
got six months probation for walking through a metal detector with an
unopened can of chewing tobacco.

Not all contraband is intended for inmates. "A lot of it is personal use
stuff," Moriarty said.

He said officials must try to figure out whether a guard just forgot to
unload a cell phone before entering a prison, or intended to deliver it to
an inmate - and get paid as much as $2,000 for one headed for death row.

Lyons said changes instituted after the death row cell phone scandal, such
as pat-downs of everyone entering the prisons, have made it harder for
contraband to get in.

But more than 200 cell phones have been confiscated systemwide since a
lockdown for illicit items ended in November, including eight seized from
death row.

Sen. John Whitmire, the lawmaker who got the threatening calls from the
death row inmate, is calling for a no-tolerance policy regarding contraband.

Whitmire, D-Houston, said staffing shortages have forced prison
administrators to compromise in discipline and hiring practices. He added
that the base pay for rank-and-file officers' salaries is capped at $34,000

"The low pay certainly would make those who are susceptible to being
dishonest cross the line," he said.

Copyright © 2008 The Houston Chronicle

Westasy's Lady

Anonymous said...

I am a proud and dedicated officer. I have no use for a dirty officer. I have seen officers come and go simply because they were to weak. A dirty boss to me is no better than the sorry ass inmates that we have to babysit. Both the dirty boss and inmate are waste to society. (Point being why inmates are inmates, failed to adapt to society) And before any of you bad mouth officers, and give me your little smart ass comments, in regards to your love ones in prison, the person you call your love one is the same one that is raping, hogging, and simply "acting the fool". So save us your lack of intelligence. Now if you don't like officers, then by all means put in your application and come walk in my shoes.

Anonymous said...

Okay first off a "respectable officer" wouldn't have the attitude you do and would understand there are corrput people in every aspect of our lives....everyday. It's attitudes as yours that really have a lot of people disturbed. I watch the Lockdown shows and all and yes I see what those officers put up with every single day as well as what the regular officers put up with everyday.....I haven't seen anyone attacking all officers here okay....just the "dirty ones" just as all inmates in prison aren't "bad people". As for your comment and I quote "sorry ass inmates" that you so call protect...I only hope God blesses you and you NEVER have had anyone with a problem that you loved or cared about who has spent time behind bars. EVERYONE is a human being and yes there are many in the prisons who belong there, but not everyone of them are bad people JUST as all prison officers are not bad people. I see the charts of how underpaid and understaffed the TDC is, and I think I've gone to bat for that purpose. Again we are ALL HUMAN and we should ALL act like it. God forgives and so should we....without forgiveness in this world then who are we?
I have a loved one in prison and he isn't a loser or someone who has committed a vicious terrible crime. I have had crimes committed against me and have had to learn to forgive the one who did those things so I could be free of the horrible prison of anger which can destroy you slowly. God bless everyone because we all are going to need it....because the state this world is in, if we dont band together now and get our hearts right then we don't have much hope. Take care everyone.

Westasy's Lady

Lacy Nicole said...

I am 19 years old. My name is lacy, and I'm fresh out of highschool. I am here to tell you that you don't have any idea what actually goes on behind those doors until u work it. I have been a correctional officer for 7 months. I have seen many bosses get walked off for bringing in drugs. As I have also seen many bosses out there life on the line to protect the security of the unit. Don't put a label on all corrctional officers. Don't let one bad apple spoil the bunch. And most importantly dony sit here and talk about something when you have no idea how it runs. Just bc you read it on the internet doesn't mean u know about it.

Anonymous said...

To the dumbass camara guy,

you are an idiot. You don't know what the fuck your talking about. If your such a badass and u know exactly how it works then why don't you come on down to the ferguson unit in midway Texas and I'll fucking show u how a real unit runs. I promise u will leave with a different outlook. Do the world a favor and keep ur mouth shut.