Thursday, July 17, 2014

Crime and violence data from Texas prisons

New data out on Texas prison crime and violence from the TDCJ office of inspector general: Mike Ward at the Houston Chronicle reported last month ("Prison crime not dropping with the population," June 20) that, "New statistics obtained by the Chronicle show that 3,001 criminal charges have been referred against imprisoned felons since 2009. Another 584 charges have been referred against correctional officers. Those numbers generally appear to be holding steady so far this year, even as the number of inmates housed in Texas prisons has dropped during the same period."

Also, "93 correctional officers faced criminal charges last year for crimes inside prisons, ranging from bribery to theft to sexual assault to official oppression. That is down from a high of 154 in 2009, according to the statistics made available under the Texas Public Information Act." Also, Ward suggested:
If the rate of prison crimes is staying roughly the same, other statistics underscore that cell block conditions are not improving much – and may be getting tougher. In April, officers reported using chemical agents on unruly felons 403 times, compared with an average of 262 times a month last year. Some 104 offender assaults were reported in March, compared with an average of 85 a month last year.

Despite the currently lower population of Texas convicts – just under 151,000 were housed in the 109 state prisons this week, about 9,000 fewer than roughly a decade ago – [TDCJ inspector general Bruce] Toney and other prison officials said they do not expect the number of prison crimes to decline much.
In addition to the stats, Ward supplied this remarkable anecdote as evidence of increased violence in Texas prisons, in this case instigated by staff:
Officials and guards acknowledge that the new numbers underscore that the Lone Star State's maximum-security lockups are living up to their long-standing tough reputation.

A March 17 beating at the Gib Lewis Unit near Woodville, in deep East Texas, highlights that.
There, shortly after 11 p.m., seven men stormed into a prison cell and began punching the inmate inside, a convicted Tarrant County burglar serving a two-year sentence. "Beat his a--," the attackers shouted over and over, as they held the inmate by throat, according to an internal report of the incident obtained by the Chronicle.

This, however, was no usual prison beat-down: The attackers were uniformed prison guards, led by a veteran lieutenant and a sergeant.

Investigators said both supervisors have been fired, and all seven guards now face charges of official oppression. The reason for the attack was that the convict, who had a history of harassing jailers, earlier had threatened a female guard.

As for the convict, he was paroled last week after serving about nine months, they said.
Good report (read the whole thing), but I'd be cautious in interpreting any one year increase or decrease too strictly; these are relatively small numbers and changes could result from a variety of factors. E.g., TDCJ has cracked down on contraband cases but that doesn't mean more contraband is coming in than before, only that the agency is now making a greater effort to enforce the rules.

And as an aside, God bless Mike Ward. If anything ever happens to him, there won't be one reporter left in the state consistently covering agency-level issues at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.


Officer J. Brown said...

Terra Tucker_SC
10:30 AM (1 hour ago)

to me
Dear Mr. Brown,

Thank you for your email regarding pay increases for correctional officers. The Senator is aware of the need for an increase and always supports this effort. Educating the rest of the senate is the best way to increase the likely hood of this happening. Please contact your state senator and representative and encourage your colleagues to do the same. Our office will continue to support your efforts as well.

Terra Tucker
Policy Analyst
Senator John Whitmire, Chair
Senate Committee on Criminal Justice
512/463-0345 Phone
512/475-2015 Fax

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Monday, July 14, 2014 9:24 PM
To: John Whitmire
Subject: INETMAIL: A simple question.

First Name: J.
Middle Name:
Last Name: Brown
Title: TDCJ
Business: Mr.

A simple question.

Dear Most Honorable Senator, I hope this email finds you doing good and best wishes in your future endeavors. I currently work for TDCJ and started in 1978 and left and came back in 2004. I met you one evening at our unit. Anyhow, I have been looking for information to see if the Correctional Officers will receive a raise this year. Your help in answering this question is greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time and that of your staff. Thank you so much for all that you do for all of us. A Correctional Officer Career can be very demanding and I know yours must be also. Very Respectfully Yours, Officer J. Brown COV

Officer J. Brown COV said...

Violence in TDCJ.
Is there any? You bet there is and the type of offender coming in to TDCJ seems(for me) to be worse than ever before. They remind me of the "Lifers" at Ellis Unit in 1978. They care about no one and nothing...and it is very difficult dealing with these non-angels.
But there are things never talked about and that is suicide. Recently, I was on Suicide Watch with an offender who had done 19 years and it was the longest night of my life.
The man had a messed up eye from a violent use of force incident nearly ten years ago. He believed all to be his enemy. It was a very mentally challenging night and things like this take a toll on all Correctional Officers. We are not robots, we feel, we have families, we don't love or like violence or violent offenders. We go to church, we vote, we pay bills, our taxes, and everything that most everyone else in Texas do but not nearly as much criminal activity as those who like to portray the Correctional Officer as evil. We are not evil just because we work at a prison. We are not actors in a movie and the movies portray the worse of the worst.
I have a daughter living in a wheel chair because she was shot thru her chest with a .45 pistol. Do I cry for yours or anyone else's sympathy. No, I don't and I am always amazed at how little a person knows or cares about anything related to TDCJ. Just keep the ones that scare you locked up and stay out of the news as much as possible.
So if you care, hug a Correctional Officer today and his or her family. You will shock them...
Officer J. Brown COV

sunray's wench said...

Officer Brown, I agree with you - not all Officers are violent. Equally, some of your colleagues would do well to remember that not all inmates are violent either, just as not all inmate friends and family are out to break the rules or think that all Officers are bad. Sweeping generalisations help no one.

Jack said...

Anonymous said...

The Michael unit was all right for a while. Recently. there have been several reports of guards escalating minor offenses into major altercations resulting in unrecorded (no cameras- how convenient?) un-necessary use of force and on several inmates obtaining too many "major" cases.

The Michael unit, which is also a medical unit, has become a hot-bed of guard's violence and mind-game playing.
The heat is not making things better and neither is the turnover rate.
Maintenance of important building features (i.e. locks on doors) is lacking. Inmates are not getting enough cold water.
Warden Baker has recently taken over, but, if he does not go "into the trenches" to see for himself what is going on and talk to the inmates, instead of just listening to one side of the many stories, he won't even know the most of it because the "majors" under him cover up what's going on.
I am collecting "stories" from inmates families who have loved ones in Texas prisons.
You can write me at:
I guarantee confidentiality in the matter.
John Small