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“Missing” Texas Prisoner Prompts Lockdown

by David M. Reutter

On December 20, 2022, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDJC) said that a prisoner reported missing the day before at the Stiles Unit in Beaumont had been “found within the prison’s perimeter fence.” But in a letter to PLN, fellow prisoner David W. Jones challenged TDCJ’s use of “missing” and “found,” noting that Zachary Myrick was simply in another housing building until he realized he’d been missed and turned himself in.

When prisoners arrive at the Stiles Unit, they are classified to general population or Safekeep (SK). The latter are housed in Building 3, while the prison’s other three dormitories house general population. The only time prisoners leave their assigned building is when “going to chow, work, church, medical, etc.,” Jones said. After dark, movement is usually restricted to food service trips.

Myrick, then 42, was assigned to Building 4, but after a late chow he decided to visit a friend in Building 3. However, Myrick never reported for headcount while in the friend’s cell. When he also missed headcount in his assigned building on the night of December 19, 2022, a search of the compound was initiated. Cell doors were opened to check prisoner identities at 2 a.m. on December 20, 2022, Jones said. But several recounts still failed to discover that Myrick was hanging out with his friend. Prison officials put out a public alert later that morning that Myrick was missing, including his photo and a description.

That same morning, 16 hours after he missed the first headcount, Myrick realized the commotion he caused and informed a guard. The alarm was called off. Myrick was put “on the chain” for a transfer. But the prison also went into lockdown as a search was conducted of the entire compound, and all prisoners—the lockup has a capacity to hold 2,891—underwent urinalysis testing, Jones said.

Five- and six-hour long headcounts are the norm at Stiles, he added. Rather than a dangerous situation, he called the incident just another instance of “inept wardens and [guards] trying to find a missing [prisoner].” Myrick is now in the Coffield Unit and Jones in the Connally Unit, TDCJ said.  

Additional source: KHOU

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