Sunday, June 12, 2011

Bribe taking guard gets less punishment than inmate's mom in contraband caper

Checking Grits' news feeds upon returning from Mexico, I noticed a couple of stories related to prosecuting TDCJ prison guards that merit readers' attention. For starters, a 21-year old guard at the Eastham unit was nabbed in a federal sting allegedly distributing a kilo of heroin in Huntsville. (That's a lot of smack for a 21-year old entrepreneur!)

Even more interesting to me, the mother of an inmate was convicted and sentenced to 19 years for paying several TDCJ guards to smuggle cellphones into the Stiles unit in Beaumont. I find the case particularly notable because I've never heard of a prison guard receiving such a long sentence, and indeed the guard who received most of the money was sentenced to a few months in prison and "shock probation." Reported KFDM-TV:
Over 134 money grams totaling over $16,000 came into Watt’s possession during 2007, most of them traced to friends and family of inmates in the Stiles Unit in Beaumont. Watts, in turn, paid out almost 40 money grams totaling over $13,000 to former TDCJ correctional Davisha Martin, and numerous other money grams to several correctional officers employed at the Stiles Unit.

Martin was caught attempting to smuggle in three cell phones on October 1, 2007. Receipts indicating that Martin received money from Watts were found in Watt’s car, and an investigation by the TDCJ Office of the Investigator General uncovered the extent of the scheme. Martin was prosecuted and served a short prison term before being granted “shock probation” in February of 2009 due to her pregnancy.
Not only did Ms. Martin receive a relatively light sentence, the other guards implicated apparently weren't prosecuted at all.

Certainly there's nothing wrong with prosecuting civilian sources of contraband, but surely prison guards engaged in smuggling deserve even steeper penalties. After all, many family members on the outside may want their loved ones in prison to have access to a cell phone for a variety of reasons, both criminal and benign. But it's smuggling by prison guards that allows those desires to be realized. Taken together, these sentences reiterate the message that prosecutors will throw the book at prisoners' families over contraband, but only slap wrists of those in uniform who accept bribes and smuggle in illegal items. That pattern all but encourages smuggling by prison staff, who pretty much know up front they're unlikely to face significant penalties besides losing their jobs.

See related Grits posts:


Pamela J. Lakatos said...

Missed you and am very glad you are back. I agree, this sentence is suspect. Wonder what the real impact of this will be upon like crimes.
Guess it just shows that it is who you are, who you know, that really makes a difference.
Mother of an inmate-automatic bad.


rodsmith said...

sounds to me like grounds for the families of those who got shafted by the do a little do it your self justice.....

Anonymous said...

Start paying the guards a decent salary and the bribe taking and contraband smuggling problem will decrease.

DEWEY said...

I've said it many times. Most of the guards are members of "The Good Ole (sic) Boys Club". There are, however a few exceptions.
P.S. Welcome back !!

Anonymous said...

"Start paying the guards a decent salary and the bribe taking and contraband smuggling problem will decrease."

If a person is dishonest they will be dishonest at any salary.

Alex S. said...

I wonder what her criminal record was and if she went to the judge or jury for punishment....

Anonymous said...

are you saying it is ok to commit a crime because someone doesn't make alot of money?

Tell the guards to get a higher education or training to make more money. While I agree guards should make more money, they need to raise the standards to become a guard. It is my understanding they can have somewhat of a criminal record so maybe they're already criminally-driven and looking for a way to make more money criminally.
Now does that sound crazy? about as crazy as your statement.

Unknown said...

I snuggled cellphones and other contraband while confined at the Stiles Unit. No guards assisted me. I used a very ingenious method. Twice a week 10 cellphones and tobacco products. Never was caught.