Friday, September 11, 2009

Did chaplain smuggle threatening letter out of death row?

A TDCJ chaplain admitted to smuggling letters out of death row on behalf of inmates, possibly including one that containing a veiled against a member of state Sen. John Whitmire's family. He will likely be fired, AP reports :
A death-row chaplain has acknowledged helping a condemned inmate smuggle out letters. Some of the inmate's letters were posted online and threatened a state senator and his family.

Prison officials have recommended firing chaplain Richard Anderson.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons says it's not known if the letters Anderson mailed for death row prisoner Richard Tabler are the ones that ended up on a Web site dedicated to condemned inmates and their cases. The chaplain's actions circumvent rules that require monitoring of nearly all inmate mail.

Officials say Tabler told them about the chaplain's actions and the chaplain then confirmed it.


BB said...


Hate to say I told you so, but this clearly illustrates that it is not lax security or even substandard performance. It is corruption, plain and simple. It surprises me even that it was a chaplain, but you really never can tell when it comes to the art of manipulation within a secure facility. I initially assumed he convinced an officer to transport the communications.

Have a great weekend.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

BB, I knew I had an 'I told you so' coming. :)

Enjoy your weekend as well.

sunray's wench said...

When I saw the Tabler story earlier this week I did wonder if the letter had actually gone through the mailroom because that kind of thing is what they look for.

Anonymous said...

So can we stop blaming the lawyers and legal mail,

Anonymous said...

BB, Grits was probably confused by the Statesman article where Livingston copped to TDCJ mailing it, which made me think the letter was logged. It's not clear the chaplain mailed the threatening letter but he'll be the scapegoat so they can sweep the whole mess under the rug.

PirateFriedman said...

Did the chaplain break any laws here?

Anonymous said...

This is the sort of condoned behavior (condoned by Grits and other anti-death penalty types) that also encourages people like David Dow to lie and exaggerate in the name of abolishing the death penalty. Playing the game straight has to apply to both sides.

So, Grits, was the "told you so" comment an actual apology?

Anonymous said...

Thank you 10:20! I'm glad to see there are others who post on here that realize the importance of both sides playing by the rules. Grits loses all credibility on these death penalty issues by constantly criticizing law enforcement while failing to highlight or acknowledge the numerous and repeated wrongs and falsehoods perpetuated by the mainstream media and anti-death penalty establishment. The complete lack of objectivity is obvious.

Contrary to popular belief on this blog, capital murder really does happen in Texas and is frequently committed by individuals who are truly evil. 99.9% of those convicted are unquestionably guilty--beyond any doubt--and the remaining .01% are very likely guilty too. See, e.g, Cameron Todd Willingham.

Those guys on death row, like Richard Tabler, are nothing more than lying, manipulative sociopaths who have nothing better to do with their time than sit around figuring out ways to work little con jobs, make naive bleeding heart liberals feel sorry for them, and persuade lovelorn European women to put money on their commissary books.

For the life of me, I cannot figure out how or why people like David Dow and the anti-death penalty left have convinced themselves that these murderers of innocent victims are somehow "political prisoners" rather than the cold-blooded killers that they really are.

Maybe I'm just totally out of touch, but it doesn't bother me at all that we have the death penalty here in Texas and are willing to use it.

BB said...

Hey anonymous 1020,

Ease up on my friend. Your implication is nonsensical. Simply because a person is an abolitionist does not mean they condone prison corruption. He owes no apology because either of us could have been right and it just so happens that in the end it was indeed a case of corruption.
Scott's efforts on this blog are appreciated by myself and many other people moreso than you probably realize. You are free to disagree, but don't be disrespectful. I hate rude behavior.


BB said...

Same goes for you anonymous 1124,

Abolitionists are not required to be objective. This group is opposed to capital punishment and simply suggest that we do not teach people that it is wrong to kill by killing. Simply because abolitionists suggest there is a better method of punishing and protecting consistent with evolving standards of decency and international trends such as Life Without Parole does not mean they are naive. In actuality, if we analyze national aggregate data, abolitionists now are actually the majority. This is to some extent a direct result of the 130 exonerations from death row since the inception of DNA testing in forensic evidence.
If you would like additional information, please read " The Future of America's Death Penalty " by Charles Lanier copyright 2009. Let me know what you think after you read it.
Until then, respect others opinions even if you disagree. Don't be rude.


R. Shackleford said...

Even one innocent man dying is too heavy a price to pay for "justice". Until you can say 100% instead of 99.9% (and i find it hard to believe that 99.9% is accurate in any case) there should be no needle dance. Sucks to be that chaplain though, not too slick for a man of God.

Anonymous said...

10:20 and 11:34

You are truly wise. It is beyond me how anyone with a moral compass can side themselves with killers rather than the victims of these murderers and the ones they left behind.

A simple reading of the facts and transcript of the Willingham case shows he was guilty brd.

Willingham was not an innocent man. The facts about him abadoning his two year old in the burning house and his behavior at the hospital thereafter show he was guilty guilty guilty.

10:20 and 11:34, thank god there are people like you in this world!

Anonymous said...

BB, abolitionists may not be reuired to be objective, but if they want to win the battle of public opinion in Texas, they really should be. I have no problem with folks who have a problem with the death penalty who are simply fundamentally opposed to any killing. At least that's being honest. What I find personally offensive are those like the Texas Defender Service who consistently lie, distort the truth and engage in unethical conduct because the believe the end justifies the means. What an insult to the victims and their survivors!

Let's be honest. The system works just fine. As much as the abolitionists hate to admit it, there has yet to be discovered a case where someone executed was irrefutably innocent. What you find are a few cases like Cameron Todd Willingham's where, after you peel back layer after layer of anti-death penalty propaganda, you are left with a set of facts that would cause most folks with good sense to conclude that the jury very likely got it right.

What's even more ironic is that while most abolitionists seem to work themselves into a frenzy over the "injustice" of executing some cold blooded psychopath who was afforded 20 years of due process, the lose no sleep at all over the concept of abortion on demand. Go figure.

Soronel Haetir said...

Ummm, the death penalty supporters in this thread have not done the cause any favors by trying to use behavioral evidence when if the arson evidence holds up there was in fact no crime. It doesn't matter how guilty someone appears if there is no basis underlying it.

This is not a similar case to the yogurt shop murders, or even the pizza bomber case in that the argument is over whether there was in fact a crime, not who committed it.

BB said...

I almost left this one alone, but I changed my mind.

It is not a question of taking sides. What is truly significant is who we are as a nation and the messages we send by our actions to the people of this country and the rest of the civilized world. Isreal is even one of many countries who no longer execute people.
You are mistaken. There are cases of irrefutable innocence where the convicted has been executed and many others who have been exonerated based on DNA and released. In addition, the majority of the abolotionists I know are also opposed to abortion. You are correct however about the unique image of Texas which is a real challenge to the abolitionist movement. Nevertheless, take a look at the numbers. We are utilizing the death sentence half as much as we did 5 years ago even here in Texas. Review Lanier's text published in 2009 titled The Future of The Death Penalty. It is a good read even for a retentionist.
One thing we are popular for in this country is our willingness to respectfully disagree. We do it every day.
I will not comment on CP any further, but I will close by saying that should another person brutally rape and kill my family, and I am left here in this world alone, I truly hope it is not the execution of the perpretrator years later that becomes my reason for existence. It is my opinion that the most appropriate sanction for this type of offender who is never suitable to return to a free society is death by incarceration. This is a more appropriate and a more civilized punishment for a capital crime. Death by lethal injection is really not punitive at all.


Anonymous said...

There are a couple of cheap shots being made against abolitionists in this tread.  Both abolitionists and death penalty supporters get carried away with unsupportable statements based on emotion. Both sides make inconsistent statments about the use of death penalty.  The Pro-death penalty folks are often the same ones that argue it abortions are immoral and place the rights of the unborn ahead of the mother.  Yet, they eagerly embrace capital punishment.The Anti-death penalty folks often argue it is immoral and yet support abortion rights placing the rights of the mother ahead of the unborn.  Neither position is totally consistent.Yet, we don't people to be totally consistent in all positions.  There are differences and the evidence on one may not apply to the other.  So, let's just say that both capital punishment and abortion are emotion laden issues subject to demogoguery.  A more productive discussion would be on the relative merits of the policy options and where the weight of the evidence falls.  After looking at the capital punishment issue for over 40 years.  About 40 years ago I would have been an advocate for capital punishment.  But over the years I read just everything I could get my hands on the issue.  As a result, my thinking has changed.  It has become clear, at least to me, that capital punishment amounts to little more than an expensive expression of vengeance.  It is ineffective, counterproductive, and is prone to substantial error (roughly 30% of cases each year).  After 40 years of looking for credible evidence to support the argument for capital punishment I have been unable to find it. The evidence goes in the opposite direction. 

Anonymous said...

About 60 people attended a candlelight vigil Sunday night, and many spoke about alleged abuse that they said has been on-going for several years inside the Taylor County Jail.

The event was organized by Lance Voorhees, a chaplain with Taylor County Detention Ministries. Voorhees says he has been banned since January from seeing prisoners at the jail. Voorhees’ complaints about inmate treatment date back several years.

During the vigil, Voorhees made allegations of wrongdoing and possible civil rights violations.

“I am not one to throw around allegations,” Voorhees said Sunday. “At first I could not believe this.”

Voorhees said he has provided accounts of wrongdoing to Sheriff Les Bruce and to former Sheriff Jack Dieken but has received no response.

Bruce did not comment on the allegations of abuse.

“I am aware of the gathering outside the Taylor County Adult Detention Center, and I am continuing to maintain the security of the facility and of the public who are entering and exiting the complex,” Bruce said.

Voorhees is calling for the formation of a citizen review board to address the concerns of jail inmates and their families. Those who attended the vigil were asked to sign a petition requesting the creation of a citizen review board.

Voorhees said he has requested opportunity to bring his concerns before the Abilene City Council and Taylor County commissioners.

“They denied my request,” Voorhees said. “I feel like nobody wants to hear about this.”

County Judge George Newman said he was aware of Voorhees’ request but was uncertain of the outcome.

“Commissioners have not seen anything in writing with regard to his complaints,” Newman said.

City Councilman Shane Price attended the vigil to hear residents’ concerns.

“This is not a courtroom, and the people that they are speaking against are not here to defend themselves,” Price said. “I am just here to listen to the concerns.”

sunray's wench said...

Sometimes it's good that comments go off at a tangent from the original story, and sometimes it's not.

Every Chaplain knows that it is against TDCJ rules to pass communication between and inmate and anyone outside in the freeworld if it cannot be recorded or observed in some way. If the Chaplain in this particular case did pass on a letter that had not gone through the mailroom first, then he broke the rules of his employment and as such should be required to leave. You do not have to have a pro or anti death penalty stance to understand that concept.

If the Chaplain felt that Tabler, or any other inmate, was being unfairly treated, there there are other avenues he could have taken to bring it to the attention to the superiors in TDCJ, the Legislators and/or the general public. Facilitating someone to make death threats in the UK is a crime, and I'm surprised it is not one in TX (everything else seems to be).

I don't think whether someone is pro or anti the death penalty or abortion has any place in this particular story.

BB ~ well said, on everything.

Anonymous said...

I say there is a crime.

Sec. 6.01. REQUIREMENT OF VOLUNTARY ACT OR OMISSION. (a) A person commits an offense only if he voluntarily engages in conduct, including an act, an omission, or possession.

(b) Possession is a voluntary act if the possessor knowingly obtains or receives the thing possessed or is aware of his control of the thing for a sufficient time to permit him to terminate his control.

(c) A person who omits to perform an act does not commit an offense unless a law as defined by Section 1.07 provides that the omission is an offense or otherwise provides that he has a duty to perform the act.

Sec. 6.02. REQUIREMENT OF CULPABILITY. (a) Except as provided in Subsection (b), a person does not commit an offense unless he intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence engages in conduct as the definition of the offense requires.

(b) If the definition of an offense does not prescribe a culpable mental state, a culpable mental state is nevertheless required unless the definition plainly dispenses with any mental element.

(c) If the definition of an offense does not prescribe a culpable mental state, but one is nevertheless required under Subsection (b), intent, knowledge, or recklessness suffices to establish criminal responsibility.

(d) Culpable mental states are classified according to relative degrees, from highest to lowest, as follows:

(1) intentional;

(2) knowing;

(3) reckless;

(4) criminal negligence.

(e) Proof of a higher degree of culpability than that charged constitutes proof of the culpability charged.

Sec. 6.03. DEFINITIONS OF CULPABLE MENTAL STATES. (a) A person acts intentionally, or with intent, with respect to the nature of his conduct or to a result of his conduct when it is his conscious objective or desire to engage in the conduct or cause the result.

(b) A person acts knowingly, or with knowledge, with respect to the nature of his conduct or to circumstances surrounding his conduct when he is aware of the nature of his conduct or that the circumstances exist. A person acts knowingly, or with knowledge, with respect to a result of his conduct when he is aware that his conduct is reasonably certain to cause the result.

(c) A person acts recklessly, or is reckless, with respect to circumstances surrounding his conduct or the result of his conduct when he is aware of but consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor's standpoint.

(d) A person acts with criminal negligence, or is criminally negligent, with respect to circumstances surrounding his conduct or the result of his conduct when he ought to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor's standpoint.

Sec. 6.04. CAUSATION: CONDUCT AND RESULTS. (a) A person is criminally responsible if the result would not have occurred but for his conduct, operating either alone or concurrently with another cause, unless the concurrent cause was clearly sufficient to produce the result and the conduct of the actor clearly insufficient.

(b) A person is nevertheless criminally responsible for causing a result if the only difference between what actually occurred and what he desired, contemplated, or risked is that:

(1) a different offense was committed; or

(2) a different person or property was injured, harmed, or otherwise affected.

Anonymous said...

The article is not about the death penalty it is about how a threatening letter got out of Polunsky .
The fact that it did shows TDCJ has a problem with security . If it was a chaplain bosses and rank who supervise bosses are also . Bosses are supposed to be watching the convict when staff or a SSI working on DR are near the convicts cell that they remain in 23 / 7 most of the time .

The pro death penalty people do them themselves no favors with their tangential comments that have nothing to do with the fact there is corruption among TDCJ staff .

Until bosses rank and other staff face serious TDCJ time for introducing or removing contraband or engaging in other criminal activities it will continue to be a serious problem.
TDCJ has to admit that it has a huge problem with corrupt employees .

Pay raises will not change it running a112 unit system with 150,000 + offenders is the problem .

Hook Em Horns said...

So...the chaplain wasn't searched leaving death row? He wasn't asked if he was carrying anything out other than what he brought in? If the answers to those questions are NO, then it is a SECURITY PROBLEM. Corruption? Yes BB but corruption is furthered by trash working as CO's. It's that simple.

No one...NO ONE should have access to death row inmates with the capability of taking ANYTHING out of the facility that they did not bring in.

RAS said...

BB , I think you may be too quick to judge in assuming corruption. He definitely screwed up but he may have had the best of intentions. When you work with convicts of any age the rules have to become your religion. You have to stop and think does this good idea violate any rules if so "Sorry, can't do it, it's against the rules." Sounds like the easiest thing in the world, it's not. They can work you and/or the point of contention until they convince you that what they want is the right thing to do, the only thing to do if you are a compassionate human being. I don't know if you're a prison guard or not but it sounds like it. People that haven't worked with cons just don't know how much they don't know. Grits made the same mistake that hundreds or thousands of other well intentioned people make; that they understand people pretty well so they understand cons since they are people. An example of common misjudgement is the several dozen women a year that get talked into having sex with the kids in TYC. I'm pretty sure none of them would have ever believed anyone telling them that a 15 or 16 year old could talk them into having sex; since they have kids that age(grandkids in some cases), or because they know how to handle boyfriends or coworkers or whatever. I think that TYC and TDCJ should get some training movies made to prepare new hires so they'll recognize the con before they've been pulled in too far. It would reduce the turnover rate considerably, saving hundreds of thousands in TYC's case since the turnover rate is 40 or 50%.

Soronel Haetir said...

Corruption, whether from good or ill motive is still corrupt.

As for the action being criminal, I would not be at all surprised if it is. However, I would also not be surprised if prison personnel, like police officers, are immune from prosecution for things they reveal during internal affairs investigations.

Hook Em Horns said...

I hear so damn many excuses from the idiots who run TDCJ that it makes me wonder of anyone knows how to run a prison? Brad Livingston sure as hell doesn't. With a pol-sci degree and his experience as the Governors budget hack, he got the job for being a good ole boy. Typical Texas. The lunacy only begins there, it does not end until you get down to the newest CO hired fresh from McDonald's or right out of the local GED class.

Anonymous said...

The chaplain may have in is in mind been doing a good thing, but it was indeed an act of corruption.

You are being unrealistic. We do not strip search support service staff even in death row. The securty systems are sound, but your comment about labor quality in the Texas prison system better explains why we have so many administrative challenges with employee misconduct. This is not
Brad Livingston's fault. He is not the reaons why Texas ranks 47th in the nation when one compares the salaries of the state correctional workers. The data from TDCJ relative to performance measures during the past 8 years believe it or not clearly indicates that the CEO has been succesful in the performance of his duties.


PirateFriedman said...

BB, as terrible as this incidnt is, I wouldn't trade places with California. They are now having to throw 40,000 criminals out onto the streets because they can't afford to provide supervision for their inmates.(Or at least they can't afford to provide supervision which is acceptable to the federal courts.)

All the while their overpaid CO union is soaking up so many taxpayer dollars.

Let's keep the CO union weak in Texas. And don't forget about privatization, which could really help lower our labor costs and improve the Texas prison system.

Hook Em Horns said...

BB I am a voter, not a member of the Senate or House so by the measures I use to judge TDCJ which include, but are not limited to, staff turnover, poor pay, death threats to a Senator, contraband and the rest, BRAD LIVINGSTON IS AS BIG A FAILURE AS RICK PERRY. If you folks are using anything else to rate the performance of these people, then YOU have a problem bigger than I ever realized.

Hook Em Horns said...

Anonymous said...

You are being unrealistic. We do not strip search support service staff even in death row. The securty systems are sound

BB...I'm sorry. I don't think anyone is going to agree that your security systems are sound. Perhaps you should try this line on Senator Whitmire. By the way, how is your contraband issue going? You and I must live on different planets BB or, like Rick Perry, by calling this "corruption" you can pass the buck to someone else.

We the people don't want anymore excuses! Can you understand that? I don't need anymore explanations from TDCJ about why you cannot get your house in order. JUST DO IT!

BB said...


Privatization is another discussion entirely. Keeping labor costs low is not exactly a strategy for continuous improvement within the system.


I appreciate your passion even if you are biased and uninformed.


Hook Em Horns said...


I appreciate your passion even if you are biased and uninformed.


9/14/2009 02:03:00 PM
I am biased against idiots BB...I will admit that. If being uninformed means I cannot understand how the idiots who run TDCJ remain in power...well guilty there also.

I love being talked down to by the morons who are supposed to be in charge of the states prisons. Save your explanations and be damn glad you DIDN'T work for me.