The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has been trying to determine the various paths used in getting drugs inside for inmates.  The default assumption has been that families and other visitors bring them in.  But Covid-19 and other factors have helped to change that view to a shocking new one.  The Houston Chronicle and the Texas Tribune followed the evidence of drugs and other contraband in the prison units.  Because of Covid-19, visitors were not allowed most of the last couple of years, even families couldn’t visit. That eliminated the visitor smuggling route.  The next target was mail.  Restrictions were put in place.  Mail to prisoners is limited to plain paper, with few exceptions.  The problem with thicker paper, cards and so forth is that it can be soaked in liquified drugs and the inmate can soak the drug out.  But, again, there was no noticeable reduction in contraband accessibility with mail curtailment.  In fact, an officer said there are more drugs now than a year ago.  Other TDCJ staff agree.  Also, the number of written violations has risen.

SO THE ANSWER TO THE QUESTION: THESE AND OTHER FACTORS POINT TO OFFICERS AND PRISON STAFFERS AS THE CULPRITS.

The system is short-handed by thousands of employees.  Some units are operating with only half the number of officers needed.  Also, pay is so low it’s difficult to find good new employees.  A thousand dollars offered to a guard by a convict to bring in something, is sometimes too hard to pass up.  Some inmates say a thousand dollars is the normal payment for bringing in a package – of drugs, cell phones or other stuff.  It apparently is possible for some guards to make an extra $3,000 a month.  The pandemic interrupted normal procedures as 50,000 staff and prisoners have contracted the virus.  Over 300 of them died.  I can agree with a TDCJ spokesman that most employees are honest workers, doing a good job.  But he acknowledged that there are those, like anywhere else, who are willing to compromise their integrity for money.  A separate problem is that technology continues to stay ahead of policies and staff charts.  For example: drones are used to transport things into remote areas of a prison to be picked up by an inmate.  Sim cards are changed in illegal cell phones so they don’t show up the same when being used.

TDCJ asks the Texas Legislature for money to increase security and salaries.  But last session prison needs were not high on lawmaker’s agenda and again this year through partisan fighting and some special sessions the attention was on a few major items and not on prison needs.  Meanwhile, prison gangs are still quite active in the prison units and coordinate some of the smuggling.  Some gangs operate outside as well as inside the prisons.  Now I have learned that there are a number of Mexican Cartel members serving sentences in Texas and they seem to have access to unlimited supplies of drugs and cash.  The number of convicts being disciplined for drug violations increased by 18% in 2020.  Apparently, drug possession is easier to track than are the paths used to get them inside. 

I FIND IT APPALLING THAT SOME PRISON STAFF BRINGS MOST OF THE DRUGS TO THE INMATES THEY ARE RESPONIBLE FOR.  IT’S THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT THEIR JOB CALLS FOR.

While this is focusing on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, these problems are found in most prison systems.  Some problems are new and updated but they have been in the criminal justice world for a long time.  You can read in my book “Real Prison Real Freedom” about how a convict labeled ‘the most violent inmate in Texas’ could manipulate guards for favors, also, how drugs were smuggled to him and perhaps most curious of all – how he even made his own wine inside the most secure, specially-built cell block.

Real Prison Real Freedom has two parts. And ‘prison’ often means more than walls, wire and guards – hatred and rage can control someone even more than the physical prison.  The other part, Freedom, is shown in how Rickie Smith shed that ‘most violent’ label to become as nice a guy as you would ever want to meet.  You’ll see the process he had to go through learning to live the opposite of his previous years.  No easy task.  You’ll meet Rickie Smith at his worst and at his best in “REAL PRISON REAL FREEDOM”.  Buy it here or order from Amazon, Barnes and Noble or other stores selling books.

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