Escape prompts outside review of Estelle Unit

December 11, 2009 6:24:54 PM PST
An independent security review will be conducted at a Texas prison where a convicted sex offender used a smuggled handgun to escape, prison system officials announced Friday as a second guard was fired over the incident. Monte S. Henson, lieutenant of correctional officers at the Estelle Unit near Huntsville, was let go Friday for failure to follow policy and procedures, said Michelle Lyons, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Henson was the supervisor in charge of restraining sex offender Arcade Joseph Comeaux Jr., as he was removed from his cell to be transferred to a Beaumont prison, she said. Armed with a smuggled pistol, Comeaux overpowered the guards while en route.

He was captured Monday in Houston, after a week on the run.

Henson is the second guard to be fired over the incident. Two transportation officers, Lance Waldo and Matthew Smith, retired Friday rather than face disciplinary action, Lyons said.

Ken McGinnis, former director of the Michigan and Illinois departments of corrections, will oversee the independent security review, said Brad Livingston, executive director of the Texas prison system. The review team should be at the prison next week, he said.

"We must learn from these mistakes on a systemwide basis," he said. "We're also conducting a systemic review of transportation policies and procedures including inspection of all transportation vehicles for potential security enhancement.

"In the future there will be more independent security reviews like the one beginning next week at the Estelle unit."

Wardens at all state prisons have been told to check compliance with security procedures immediately, and periodic security reviews at all state prisons will be expedited, he said.

Livingston promised that any agency employees found to have helped Comeaux escape "will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Guard Michael Price was fired Thursday for "reckless endangerment." Price, who had been a guard for six years, should have searched Comeaux as he was removed from his cell to be transferred to a Beaumont prison, Lyons said.

Investigators said earlier that Comeaux, who was in a wheelchair, was not searched as required.

Comeaux is serving three life sentences for sexually assaulting a child and for stabbing his former wife and another man during a 1999 visit at a Houston-area prison.


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