It might seem like fiction to see prison guards indicted for planting contraband in inmates’ cells, or for leaders in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice ordering disciplinary write-up quotas, but both are very harsh realities for some incarcerated Texans. New revelations now have some calling for increased oversight of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
A few months ago, a newspaper uncovered emails from a Texas prison major, Capt. Reginald Gilbert, who ordered guards to write up prisoners for daily infractions or face their own set of disciplinary actions.
The email read, “Effective March 10, 2018, each Sergeant will be required to turn in at least two (2) cases written by officers for a Level 2 Code 35 Unauthorized Storage of Property. Two each day is my requirement. Remember this is to be done each workday without exception.”
This quota system was specific to the Ramsey Unit, but a TDCJ audit found three other units had recently rolled out the same quota system. The investigation by TDCJ reportedly led to the dismissal of over 600 disciplinary cases against inmates.
That incident proved to be only part of the story, however. Soon after the emails were uncovered, a letter was produced from a mother alleging her son had been set up in connection with the quota system. The investigation that followed found that two screwdrivers were planted in an inmate’s cellto fulfill the quota. As a result, the major resigned, four officers were fired, all were indicted, and calls for additional oversight have grown.
The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition and Texas Inmates Family Association released a joint statement calling for independent investigations into what they consider “one of the most opaque state agencies.”
The groups are calling for external oversight similar to that of county jails and the overall juvenile justice system. While TDCJ’s investigation led to indictments, the whole issue would have gone unnoticed if not for the newspaper article. Though the officers were indicted on felony charges of tampering with governmental records and misdemeanor charges of official oppression, the incident exposed a deeper problem of oversight. The department must identify the areas that lack accountability and implement safeguards to ensure this doesn’t happen again.