HOME | MIKE CAIN | WILLIE HOGAN | MANUELA THIESS
I am a Correctional Officer in the Texas Prison System, newly hired, with just a few months out of Academy.
I am also a former Police Chief, who worked for a Department in Alabama since 1977 and retired.
I observed pictures of some inmates beaten to death one of your pages, (http://www.geocities.com/prisonmurder), and was not too surprised at the outcome, as we were trained in The Academy in Huntsville, Texas to not defend or try to break up a fight between inmates.
We were told to stay back until the inmates finish fighting and submit to handcuffs before we approach them. This has been just one disturbing policy to me as I see all kinds of predators that approach inmates who are just trying to do their time and end up being beaten or abused.
I watched a film in Academy called "The Barfield Incident", that affected me deeply. It is policy to video tape any violent conflicts between inmates and/or officers. Inmate Barfield was apparently the subject of a "hit" by gang members and was released into an exercise yard with an inmate that was to kill him.
The Videotaped killing showed Barfield being chased around the yard by this inmate with a knife that was hidden prior to his arrival. It went on for several minutes with Barfield fighting for his life and the other inmate stabbing him repeatedly. Bear in mind there is an officer filming this. As the video tape continues the Academy instructor states that Barfield is getting weak from loss of blood. A second later Barfield falls to the floor and the other inmate GUTS HIM!
They showed the aftermath where the inmate was cut open from his neck to his groin.
At the time the inmate is finished killing Barfield, he throws his knife down and you see as many as 8 or ten officers run in and handcuff him. He was smiling as he was led out...
I was very upset and almost resigned from Academy the day I saw this. I asked the Sgt. why didn't any officers help this inmate?
He stated we weren't allowed to, that we were to wait until it was over and then remove them. I was shocked and told him if I was the state of Texas I would be ashamed to show this video of a human being being murdered, and officers not stopping one inmate from killing another.
I have been upset over the lack of training and the [Texas Department of Criminal Justice], TDCJ's inability to even trust their officers with a nightstick in case any of these things happen. There are many things I disagree with them about and will voice these things the day I resign, which is in the next month.
You see, I am a professional and will not tolerate the behavior they exhibit as "policy" inside these prisons. And I will not stand by and watch an inmate or officer be beaten to death.
I wish I could stay and help make change but it seems they have a closed door to any new policys.
I think that many inmates are not spoken to when they get out of line for fear of the inmate writing a Grievance on the officer, which happens all of the time. I also think that the very bad offenders that are assaultive to other inmates should be removed and placed where they can't hurt anyone.
Please feel free to write me if I can answer any questions for you.
Before I begin this part of my essay I feel I must say something that I have not revealed until now.
In 1983, while serving as a police officer in Alabama, my youngest brother Paul,became involved with a group of people that were stealing cars. He was apprehended in Texas and placed in the county jail to await trial. He and another inmate escaped from jail and came to Alabama. Paul stayed in Alabama and came to my sisters house and advised her of the situation he was in.
They ultimately came to me and being the Law Enforcement Officer that I was I talked Paul into turning himself in.
I went with Paul to the Airport in Birmingham to meet with the Sheriff of the Texas county that he escaped from. The Sheriff was an older man and spoke well of Paul's decision to turn himself in.
This was the last time I saw Paul for 3 years. He was convicted of escape and auto theft, and served all 3 years at the Ellis unit in Huntsville, Texas.
When Paul came home he was not the same person that I took to the airport. The prison system had affected him and he was a cold person I didn't know.
It also affected my Mother. She passed away in 1999 and I spoke to her many times of how her heart was broken, knowing Paul was in prison.
I wonder at times if I knew then what I know now about the prison system if I would have talked Paul into turning himself in. I don't think I would have.
I know that he is better off not having it hanging over his head, but he was just a kid when he went in there, and came out a cold, hard man I didn't recognize.
Many families are affected by the prison system. Their hearts are broken every day when they see their loved ones enter a prison.
It doesn't matter who you are, if one of your family members goes to prison, part of you will serve time with him. My Mother served everyday of those 3 years Paul spent in prison. She mourned his absence and I know she aged 10 years for the 3 he was incarcerated.
I love my brother, and it doesn't matter what he did. You don't "turn off" love - it goes on no matter what happens.
We are all part of a family called the Human Race,and I would have liked to have thought my brother was being treated as a human being.
I now know he wasn't.....
THE ACADEMY, Part I
The day I began the Corrections Academy in Huntsville, Texas was a day of excitement...
It was also the day after the Texas 7 escaped from the Connaly Unit in Kennedy, Texas.
I walked into the 2nd floor hallway and immediately saw a sign that said, "Region 1 Training Academy."
As I walked down the hallway I saw a room to my left that had a large number of people gathering in it, and veered to it to get my bearings.
I watched as a large baldheaded man with Sgt. stripes on his uniform emerged and looked my way. I told him who I was and that I was reporting for duty. He motioned to the room with all of the noise and said, "find a seat".
I nodded and opened the door where I saw at least 80 people or more all talking at once. Many were very young and looked like they belonged in high school rather than a place that they were headed to.
I found a seat on the front row and sat down next to a girl who looked all of 20, if that. She was painting her nails and you could, of course smell the fingernail polish. Seconds later I heard a yell to "SHUT UP, and SIT DOWN!"
The room became immediately quiet and everyone looked towards the door where the sound came from. "I am Sgt. Andrews, and I want you all to sit down now!" be bellowed.
Everyone that was standing sat down very quickly, some so quickly that they sat on top of each other.
SGT. ANDREWS appeared to be about 5 ft. 7 in. tall, and may have weighed in at 150 lbs. He was however, very sharply starched and pressed and had a look of "I'm all business", about him.
He began by telling us who he was, that many of us would not be here tomorrow, and that some of us would likely not graduate from this Academy because of poor grades.
This was a Thursday and was spent with 3 of the instructors yelling at cadets and screaming for them to shut up. It also was spent doing the human resources thing of getting our insurance papers filled out.
We were told that drug testing would take place the next day, "and any of you smoking crack needn't come back tomorrow."
I was not approached and yelled at, I suppose because of my age (46 and holding).
The younger cadets seemed to be treated very badly, and of course some didn't come back the next day.
We turned out 140 Cadets for our Academy class and lost several wannabe officers every day. Drug testing the next day was completed, and ID photo pictures taken.
We were told that we would be here for 4 weeks, (160 hours), and that we would take 5 tests on which we must score high enough on the total score to pass, not 70%. We were allowed to fail a test, but we must have enough total points in order to graduate.
Female officers were shown how to "put up" their hair to wear in the prison environment, and several male officers were given razors and told to go to the bathroom and shave. Many were told to go get a haircut.
It seemed that those first 2 days were spent mistreating the cadets and talking down to them in an attempt to see if they could take it. I know this because I had spent 12 weeks in Marine Corps boot camp at Parris Island, and knew what they were doing. As I found out later, they would continue this through the next 2 weeks.
I found myself enjoying being around some of these kids that were so enthused about their new jobs. I also knew that most of them didn't have any idea what they were going to face when they arrived at their unit.
Many of the class were young. There were very few experienced former officers coming through. I counted 3, and 2 were laundry managers. One was from another state. We had 3 expectant mothers in our class, (only one would graduate). It appeared that the majority, (over 50%), of our class was female.
We were also told to expect to have a lot of DT, (Defensive Tactics). This was what they called physical training; running, situps, etc. I must admit that the instructors appeared to be in good physical shape.
SGT. JOHNS was a very muscular man with a shaved head. He was intimidating-looking and didn't smile a lot . He informed us of the units he had worked at, including the field force. This is where the inmates go out into the field and work with hoes while officers on horses, armed with pistols and rifles watch and issue orders from a distance. He also worked on Death Row at the Ellis Unit.
He ended this by telling us that he enjoyed fighting with inmates, and that he had lost his stripes once for, "whipping 6 inmates and making them sit naked at the back gate." He said they were observed naked by a visitor and he was demoted for a year. He said he regained his stripes (Sgt.)after that year when they realized they needed him.
He said he always, "took care of his business" when he was on the job, and none of the rank ever had to come to where he was working.
SGT. ANDREWS was in good physical shape, and let all the cadets know to never challenge him.(During a practicing forced cell move he was slammed by cadets and cut his eye.)
He was also one of the Instructors that told us he had been in trouble for "whipping Inmates." He said that when he became a CO he lived to go to work and fight. After he was brought up on charges often enough he was told to ease up or he wouldn't have a job. He was later promoted to Lt., then demoted to Academy Instructor.
SGT. EZELL was a small wisp of a lady, and tough as nails. Most of the time she was the person that performed the majority of class instruction. She was tough and let you know it.(Her husband was a Warden.)
SGT. PINTELL spoke in low tones and always asked, "Are you wit me?"
MAJOR FROME I only saw twice.
These are the Instructors at the Academy. You will hear more about them as I go into Part II.
This part of the Academy has been the first 2 days. In the days ahead I will cover the 4 weeks that were called Texas Department of Criminal Justice Academy.
THE ACADEMY, Part II
Pain, is how I guess you would best describe they way my legs felt on that first day of a 2 mile run in Academy. I hobbled the last part of the run, and thought of how I wished I was 19 again.
This first day was a day that the sergeants used to impress upon us that we were in for a long 4 weeks in Academy. In the old days of Academy you didn't have to run or do much of any physical activity. I was told that the defensive tactics and the physical training started after Correctional Officer Daniel Nagle was stabbed to death while working a shift at a medium security prison in south Texas.
Some, I guess 25% of the class were separated into a walking group, (I chose to be in the running group.) The walking group consisted of people who were too out of shape or too old to run.
I wondered, “What are people that can’t run 50 feet doing in correctional academy?” How would or could they survive a confrontation with an irate inmate?
There are several types of officers in the system, some that just love to fight and some that love to talk. I am one that prefers to talk. I don't feel fighting with an inmate is professional. I know there are times when you must restrain someone, but humanely. I have made arrests that ended up with me being assaulted for making the arrest. I always managed to gain physical control of the person and restrained them, then I stopped. I didn't beat them or slap them or verbally abuse them.
It’s a job, a profession. You know when you pin the badge on that there will be times like these and that you must use restraint; that you mustn’t abuse the public trust. After all, if it was you being arrested and you did something stupid like take a swing at the officer, would you deserve a beating for that? I don't think so.
The physical training in Academy seemed to be for one reason: to appease public concern that Texas correctional officers are not properly trained in defensive tactics. This training has not been going on very long. Mostly since the death of officer Nagle.
The first full week was one that consisted of yelling and of course physical training. Some potential officers left without telling the instructors and didn't return. The first week we lost around 20 officers out of 140.
The lunch hour consisted of a march to the infamous "Walls" Unit. This is Where all of the Executions take place. The food was good but the environment stunk, reeking of death, and I can’t describe that feeling of walking into a place where hundreds of people have been put to death. It is just a blackness that falls over you when you enter the prison. It stayed with me during both of my visits to the walls for lunch.
After the second visit I didn't go back.
That night as I made my way home through a crowd at the front of the prison, I wondered what all of these people were doing here at this time and why the TV cameras? Had there been an escape?
I looked across the street and observed a man holding a candle, its flame flicking in the wind. It was then I knew...they were executing someone......
More on Academy later...