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Prison Guards With Criminal Records Work in Texas Prison

Over ten percent of the guards at the Lyncher State Jail, near Houston Texas, are convicted felons themselves. Houston television station. KPRC uncovered court files showing that about thirty of the guards had served time. Some are repeat offenders; some are ranking officers.

Charges against the guards include felony theft, forgery, illegally carrying a firearm, assault and resisting arrest among others. Sgt. Jay Hart was arrested and convicted for both theft and trespassing. Guard Kirk Booker is a three-time loser having served time for threats and family violence. His work record reflects a pattern of physical violence against prisoners and coworkers also; for which he is still on probation.

Policy in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) is a major part of the problem. Felonies that can keep a person from getting hired are not enough to get them fired.

One investigator asked, "So if the policy says that this kind of conviction means you're unfit to be a corrections officer, why is it that once you're already a corrections officer, that same thing doesn't apply? Either you're fit to be a corrections officer or you're not."

Ken Johnson, personnel manager for TDCJ, explained, "Spending time in jail does not necessarily disqualify somebody from being a correctional officer. It's an entrance standard not necessarily a retention standard."

When asked his opinion about the TDCJ hiring policy Lyncher guard Tramill Lopez voiced his misgivings. "Anyone that makes it through, you assume that they're safe and they will have your back and we will work as a team once we're here."

One Lyncher teammate who did manage to get himself fired was Demone Holman. Holman was charged with felony bribery on January 15, 2003 when he offered to reduce the 14-month forgery sentence of Edwin Yassir Careas for $15,000. Holman also promised to eliminate a detainer from Careas' record as well.

An informant reported the proposition to KTMD television in Houston. The station then collaborated with authorities to set up a sting operation. Holman was arrested when he accepted $5,000 as a down payment.

Ironically, Lyncher prison is named after the prominent political activist Pam Lyncher who was killed in the crash of TWA 800. Lyncher is best known as the founder of the crime victim revenge organization Justice For All.

Asked about the number of convicted guards working at the prison named for his wife, Joe Lyncher was in disbelief. "Many of these correctional officers actually have a worse record than the people they're guarding," he said.

Neither is the practice unique to Texas. Past investigations have found North Carolina and Florida prisons have high numbers of convicted felons as guards. (PLN Dec. 1999) In states that are so quick to lock up its citizens this should probably not be surprising.

Source: KPRC TV Station, Houston Chronicle

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