The crime rate in Texas prisons has remained about the same despite a decrease in prisoner population of about 9,000 over the past ten years.
Since 2009, 3,001 Texas prisoners and 584 Texas prison guards have been charged with crimes that occurred within the prison system. The most charges were filed against prisoners in 2012 with 683 charges. The peak for guards was 154 in 2009.
Texas has the largest prison system in the country with around 151,000 prisoners incarcerated in 109 prisons. In 2013, 93 guards were charged while in the first four months of 2014, 87 prisoners faced charges. The charges are, often related to contraband smuggling, but can range into theft, assault, rape or even murder.
Many instances of prison violence go uncharged. For instance, there were 104 prisoner assaults reported in March 2014. The average of such assaults was 85 per month in 2013. Thus, the number of assaults is more than four times the number of prisoners charged for all types of crimes.
A typical scenario that resulted in guards being charged occurred at the Gib Lewis Unit on March 17, 2014, when seven guards, two of them supervisors, rushed into a cell and begin beating a prisoner who was serving a two-year sentence for burglary. During the assault, they held him by the throat and screamed, ’’Beat his ass." What sparked the beating? The prisoner supposedly threatened a female guard. The two supervisors were fired and all seven face criminal charges of official oppression.
“Just like in the outside world, most of these crimes are crimes of opportunity—but they get caught, “ said Bruce Toney, inspector general for the Texas prison system. “Those officers went into that cell thinking they could get away with it, that they could make up a story and justify their use of force. It didn’t work.”
Prison officials say that criminal attacks on prisoners by guards have been rare since the disbanding of the multi-prison "Blue Bandanna" gang of rouge guards that, in the 1990s, specialized in beating prisoners—especially those who didn't pay a monthly protection fee—and even beat one prisoner to death. A retired guard cites low pay for guards, a high number of mentally ill prisoners, prison gang activity, long prison sentences and intolerable summer heat in the un-air-conditioned prisons as factors influencing crime among guards and prisoners.
Sources: www.houstonchronicle.com, www.brentbowen.com
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