A prison major has resigned and the Department of Criminal Justice has fired four others and demoted a fifth who took part in a scheme to plant two screwdrivers in a cell to meet a supervisor-initiated inmate violation quota.
Criminal Justice has accepted the resignation of Major Juan Jackson, who signed off on a plan by a subordinate to require guards at the W.F. Ramsey Unit in Rosharon — about 40 miles south of Houston — to submit at least two inmate violations in writing a day or face disciplinary action.
The department fired Lt. James Thomas, Sgts. Marcos Gallegos and Darryll Winston and Officer George Wolfe. Capt. Reginald Gilbert, who concocted the quota system in the first place, was also demoted.
The Department uncovered and halted inmate violation quota systems at three other Texas prison units in recent months, according to Criminal Justice spokesman Jeremy Desel. Officers involved in those disciplinary systems have been demoted, although Desel did not identify the units or the officers involved.
“Every time I think I’ve seen everything, I see this,” John Whitmire, longtime chair of the state Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee, told the Houston Chronicle. “We don’t condone speeding ticket quotas, why would we have quotas in a prison? It’s nuts.”
The evidence planting came to light during a prison audit of inmate disciplinary actions that followed a Houston Chronicle story last month that uncovered the quota system.
On March 9, Gilbert had sent an email to ranking prison officials that said, “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,'” he wrote. “Two each day is my requirement. Remember this is to be done each workday without exception.”
Sergeants not making their quota could face formal disciplinary action, Gilbert said in the email. Jackson, Gilbert’s superior, endorsed the plan, saying in an email the “below instructions will help greatly in fighting a gig,” prison slang for an audit, according to the Chronicle.
In April, Gilbert announced he was halving the quota, and less than a week after that he discontinued it altogether. Warden Virgil McMullen followed four days later. “This email,” Gilbert wrote, “is to reiterate the email I had Capt. Gilbert send out on April 6, 2018. We DO NOT and WILL NOT have case quotas on Ramsey Unit. Make sure any and all previous emails regarding case quotas are not being followed. We will follow agency policy.”
The media attention prompted the mother of one of the Ramsey Unit inmates to ask the Criminal Justice’s Office of the Inspector General to look into her son being disciplined for having two screwdrivers in his cell
While Desel said the case remains under investigation by the Inspector General, the likelihood that guards planted the screwdrivers in the cell spurred the resignation, dismissals and demotion. An internal investigation is expected to focus on all disciplinary actions involving any of those punished going back several months, Desel said.
“This appears to be an isolated incident that started with that major. Cases are going to be presented to the special prosecutor’s office,” Desel said. “If there is a determination that there’s violation of the law it’s our intent to see prosecution to the fullest extent of the law for those involved.”
“I’m glad TDCJ knows how unacceptable that practice is and that they should have zero tolerance for it,” Whitmire, D-Houston, told the Chronicle. “We want to hold inmates accountable but we need to make darned sure that there’s not some employees abusing their powers.”
Mark Lisheron can be reached at [email protected].