Prison personnel indicted over evidence tampering and inmate violation quotas

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Prison personnel indicted over evidence tampering and inmate violation quotas

A prison guard major who resigned and three guards who were fired after corruption was uncovered at the W.F. Ramsey Unit in Rosharon have been indicted by a Brazoria County grand jury.

The grand jury found sufficient cause for former Maj. Juan Jackson, former Sgt. Marcus Gallegos, former Officer George Wolfe and former employee James Smith to be charged with felony tampering with governmental records and misdemeanor official oppression. The charges relate to the planting of evidence and creation of a quota system on inmate violations that had been instituted for guards.

The four lost their jobs at the prison unit, about 40 miles south of Houston, after Warden Virgil McMullen ordered an audit of all inmate violations in May, The Texas Monitor reported last month. McMullen had put a stop to a plan Jackson had signed off on requiring prison guards to meet a quota of writing up at least two inmate property violations a day or face possible disciplinary action.

Investigators for the inspector general’s office in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice found that, during the brief time the quota was in force, a Ramsey inmate had been disciplined for having two screwdrivers in his cell, screwdrivers that had been planted there by a prison employee.

TDCJ expanded the review to include all of the state’s 104 prison units and halted similar quota systems at the McConnell Unit south of San Antonio, Travis County State Jail in Austin and Lychner State Jail in Atascocita, northeast of Houston, The Texas Monitor reported.

As a result of the review, the department voided nearly 650 disciplinary actions at the four state criminal detention units, 373 of them filed at the McConnell Unit and another 180 at the Ramsey Unit.

The corrections agency fired five ranking prison officials, one resigned, and a warden and several others were demoted as a result of the investigation.

TDCJ has insisted the quota system and the planting of screwdrivers in an inmate’s cell were not related, according to a Houston Chronicle story Tuesday. A prison spokesman told the Chronicle the evidence planting was an “isolated incident.”

Over the past five years, the inspector general’s investigators have uncovered cases of evidence tampering that resulted in at least 75 arrests of prison personnel. The records don’t indicate how those cases were resolved, according to the Chronicle.

An inmate told the Chronicle, “Officers planting drugs, weapons, and other forms of contraband is a fairly regular occurrence in TDCJ.”

“It’s good that people are being held accountable,” state Sen. John Whitmire, longtime chairman of the Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee, told the Chronicle, “and to see where the process goes from here.”

Mark Lisheron can be reached at [email protected].

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