Saturday, May 01, 2010

Ex-trooper convicted of shaking down motorists dies in private detention

I'd recently mentioned the case of a trooper convicted of shaking down Hispanic motorists for cash. He died in custody at a private detention facility in Robstown, reported the Corpus Christi Caller Times April 29:
A former Department of Public Safety trooper sentenced last week to prison for stealing from Hispanic motorists, died at a Robstown private detention facility Thursday, state officials and the prison confirmed.

Michael Anthony Higgins, 42, complained of shortness of breath Wednesday night and died at 7:32 a.m. Thursday, according to Texas Commission on Jail Standards executive director Adan Muñoz.

Higgins was convicted in January of depriving several Hispanic motorists of their civil rights by stealing their money. ...

The state jail commission has asked for a death in custody notification form and several other documents, including an inmate screening form that was completed at intake and cell check logs, in relation to the incident, Muñoz said.

He was a sleazebag for what he did, but I wouldn't wish that on anybody.

This facility deserves closer scrutiny. Last year it failed an inspection and the Commission on Jail Standards threatened them with closure if they didn't rectify a long list of glaring problems, placing them on "at risk" status. TCJS chief Adan Muñoz declared at the time that the jail's management "borders really close to complete incompetence.”

In February, Texas Prison Bidness reported that 72% of staff at the facility, which is managed by LCS Corrections, were working under temporary jailers' licenses and had not completed (or in some cases even begun) testing and training. TPB notes that:

This insight about the amount of unlicensed guards at CBDC does not seem too surprising for this facility which was plagued with staffing issues in the past. In 2009 the facility had two rounds of layoffs. The first round released 35 facility employees from their jobs in order to compensate for their high rate of vacancy (and thus lower income). Then the facility hired more employees in order to compensate for a large influx of inmates that were supposed to help fill the facility, which resulted in an over-staffing problem and subsequently a second round of layoffs to the tune of 26 employees shortly after the prison failed their inspection and had a new Warden appointed. This facility's history of rapid employee turnover paired with every private prison's drive to profit makes the fact that the facility has 72% of guards still uncertified less shocking. What is shocking, however, is how a facility can even function with such a large percentage of untrained, untested guards.

So when a seemingly healthy inmate - someone who was a DPS trooper not long before - ends up dead and may have received inadequate medical care, it's hard not to wonder if the overwhelming number of greenhorn staff at the unit was a contributing factor?

TBD observed in February that, "The longer the facility goes without training these guards, the longer Nueces County is liable for the actions of ill-prepared prison guards," (emphasis in original). We don't know all (or really any) of the facts yet, but that may turn out to have been a particularly prescient observation.


Anonymous said...

Another reason to decommission the jail commission.

Pam Lakatos said...

This is awful. Please keep up the pressure to make these people accountable. If this was truly something that could not have been prevented then we should know this.
On the other hand, if this is a result of poorly trained guards then this facility should be held accountable and no one should be committed here until the State has satisfied its obligation in making sure that all facilities are safe places for all inmates.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

To be fair, 7:20, TCJS seems to have identified the problems, the jail just didn't fix them and the counties keep lobbying to limit TCJS' authority.

Anonymous said...

If whites are to be housed at the mentioned jail, food should be automatically catered from Joe Cotton's restaurant. I mean, how can a white boy be expected to eat refried beans and corn tortillas and jalapenos for breakfast, lunch and dinner? I'm sure had he had his fair share of the piggy-back ribs, pork and beans and coleslaw he'd still be amongst the living. Just don't make no sense at all.

Anonymous said...

QUOTE "died at a Robstown private detention facility"

There's the problem right there, "private" facility.

We need to get rid of ALL private prisons. They don't care how people are treated, and then when lawsuits come up taxpayers pay the tab.

machine said...

Our prisons have a house those who have been convicted of a crime punishable by a prison sentence. Be that sentence a year or life, be the crime petty or heinous,convicted felons (and their families) have a right to guarenteed safe living standards. If those standards are not upheld then the burdon is on the State to fully investigate the facility and/or (in this case) the company that runs the prison; holding fully accountable and punishable all individuals and their parties.

Anonymous said...

First it was Montague County, Harris County is still under the feds microscope and Dallas County can't pass after what their last 5-7 inspections.

“Last year it failed an inspection and the Commission on Jail Standards threatened them with closure if they didn't rectify a long list of glaring problems, placing them on "at risk" status. TCJS chief Adan Muñoz declared at the time that the jail's management "borders really close to complete incompetence.”

Borders really close to incomepetence. Now that's a clue.

In the meantime, whether or not counties lobby for TCJS to have less authority, the commission has the power of remedial order. Use it. Threats don't work.

The bottom line: it's politics.

Anonymous said...

Privates contribute lots of money to the guv and committee chairs. Check it out.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry this man died. This facility, as well as many others should be investigated and those guilty of committing crimes against these individuals should be held accountable. And these are crimes!

"On September 20, 2008, my husband was arrested. The officer used the taser, the asp and the mace. His left shoulder was intentionally dislocated. He received 14 staples in his scalp from the officer's use of the asp. The only medical attention after his arrest was Ibuprofen 800 mg and the staples were removed by a staff nurse as he held his head to the bars. He was in jail for 3 days with no blanket or mattress and 5 days before being allowed to shower. There was no medical follow-up. The medical requests he sentwent unanswered."

What diseases could my husband have contracted as a result of this unsanitary, inhumane treatment of his severe injuries? Staff infection? It's all over the jail!

My husband was "beaten" by that officer! And notice what the CO, the person who booked him into Johsnon County said about it:

"We at the sheriffs office saw the dash cam as well in a training course and not all of what you are saying is completely true. Did Cliff get hit , yes. Should he have been as many times after he stopped running from the Deputy, no. But he did run... I don't agree with all that goes on in the correctional systems"

Doesn't agree but doesn't report anything that should have been reported either! Whose going to investigate her and that jail?

Check out the entire blog at:

And at the same time she was blogging, another person was pretending to be the "victim" of my husband's crime and put out all kinds of information that could only have been known by either the officer that arrested him or by other jail employees. Whose going to investigate that breach of privacy?

Not being insensitive to the death of this man, but my husband's LIFE is important too. I know there are those of you out there that believe that people who are in jail should have no rights, that if they're in jail, they deserve whatever happens to them. May the eyes of your ignorance be opened!!!!



Anonymous said...

For those of you who do not have a loved one or friend or other in a Texas prison, you don't know anything! My husband is at the Wayne Scott Unit and he said the food is so awful there, that 'awful' does not even BEGIN to cover it! He says that oftentimes greens, lettuce and food out of the field is not washed and when you bite down there is gravel and dirt in it, he says there is bugs in the food, they serve food that has gone beyond its expiration date, they serve slop they should be serving to the hogs there (and do!), they serve food and it is so bad that 75 percent of the time he gets sick and is either barfing it up, or on the toilet! They serve food that alot of the space on his 'food card' is empty and he is killing me with charges for food items from the commissary! He said the health care there is so bad, that he watched a man having a heart attack and he was screaming and no one, not even the guards went to his aid! If the private industry prisons are worse than the ones run by Texas State, then I feel sorry for the inmates, no matter what they might have done! No one deserves to be treated like that; locked up with no decent food or medical care! I know that guy was a scumbag for what he did, but he deserved to get decent medical care!