Saturday, July 14, 2018

"Isolated incident" at TDCJ means things that happen to lots of people all the time

Not long ago, Grits parsed statements from Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman and concluded that his consistent pattern of responding to systemic problems with claims that they're "isolated incidents" amounted to a "practice of deflection and deception," corrorborating what a whistleblower called a "culture of coverup" at the agency.

Here's a good example: An article by the indefatigable Keri Blakinger at the Houston Chronicle - focused on a major and three guards who were indicted for planting evidence on inmates and then filing false grievances - included a reference to this now-routine, "isolated incident" response:
A Texas prison spokesman last month called the screwdriver-planting scheme an "isolated incident." Since then dozens of inmates and their families have reached out to the Chronicle, the Office of the Inspector General and Texas Inmates Families Association with similar allegations. 
"Officers planting drugs, weapons, and other forms of contraband is a fairly regular occurrence in TDCJ," one inmate said, after detailing another alleged evidence-planting incident he says he witnessed at Ramsey Unit. 
In the past five years, there have been more than 75 arrests or charges of tampering with evidence or records filed against TDCJ officers, records show. That figure only includes cases investigated by the Office of the Inspector General, and it doesn't indicate how the cases were ultimately resolved.
Sound like an "isolated incident" to you?

The agency lessens its credibility when it responds to legitimate criticisms of systemic failures by scapegoating the lowest level individuals instead of accepting accountability for things that go wrong.

This is why advocates have called for independent oversight at the agency, a point made in the story by Jennifer Erschabek of the Texas Inmate Family Association:
"We've been fighting for independent oversight for years and haven't been able to get any traction," said Jennifer Erschabek of the Texas Inmate Families Association. "They always say there's the ombudsman, the House Corrections Committee, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, the board - but that's never been effective for us because we never get the transparency or accountability we need on these issues. It takes the news media to get to the bottom of this and get to facts."

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Scott, can you please shed light on something? The article says there's an Inspector General office which is "independent", but the rest of the article makes it sound like the oversight is incomplete.

What's missing? Is the OIG underfunded? "Independent" only on paper? Mismanaged? Not equipped with needed investigatory powers?

Call me Fred.

Anonymous said...

one inmate said If one inmate said then it must be true. But, we can't believe anything a cop said.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@ 7:19, the OIG reports to the TDCJ board, not the E.D.. Not sure that makes them "independent."

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@9:04, not "one inmate," but "dozens of inmates and their families." There, FIFY. You're welcome. :)

Anonymous said...

They must not teach cognitive dissonance at the police academy

Steven Seys said...

The Office of Inspector General is staffed by former security staff and reports to the warden of the unit on which it is placed before sending anything off to the board of corrections. It is an arm of TDCJ and works for the same people with which the staffers had worked before transferring to OIG.

Anonymous said...

When you contact OIG they refer you back to the facility to resolve the matter...at least the time I contacted them. And apparently everything is an "isolated" incident...very familiar words. Then there's not much an inmate or family can do and then the inmate is punished a couple weeks for calling them out but it's made to look unrelated. As far as drugs, there's enough drugs in there that the only people bringing it in is the guards...I have a hard time getting a letter through at times but somehow there's literally bags of drugs on a block with dudes smoking it up nonstop...and nobody sees it? Riiiight...oversight on any level? Doubtful...checking boxes all the way up the chain and falling back on plausible deniability because "our multiple levels of oversight and inspections must be right". Call me Todd. Hey Grits, provide contact information so I can reach out privately about a very detailed hourly/daily log from the inside I have in my possession that I would like to get you involved with soon.

Anonymous said...

Planting contraband is an effective form of inmate management and it occurs in every penal institution in the world, always has, always will. Sometimes it is planted by inmates at the behest of shot callers, but in all incidents it's still a form of inmate management. Not much different from when a driver refuses consent to search and an officer has to go through the hassle of calling in a K9 unit, do you honestly believe he's not going to find something for his troubles? Really!?

Anonymous said...

I know from being on the other side of this equation that the system actors benefit from reporters with short attention spans. Rarely, if ever, does a reporter come back days, weeks, or even months later seeking an update on the event. It just falls by the wayside and is forgotten. It takes a lot of shoe leather to get behind the official statement, but that's what reporters, especially good ones, are paid to do.

Anonymous said...

I have a story from a family member on inside falsely convicted...he is a vet so remember this thread when you see it on the news soon about the ridiculous conditions all live thru. I have lost all faith in a system which doesn't maintain the very basic rights of Americans ("guilty" or not guilty other than terorists).

Creator_of_SOFAQ SOFAQ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I have always pictured the scenario of a victim's family bribing a guard to create a false disciplinary solely for the purpose of deleting good time for the purpose of voiding release on Mandatory supervision. Payback can be sweet.

Anonymous said...

All OIG (including that of TJJD) “report to the board (and not to the ex dir?) and are paid by those agencies, housed in offices there, provided equipment by those agencies and are not independent. If they are independent, they do not pass the smell test.