13 Investigates found more than 100 prison employees fired this year

Thursday, November 2, 2023
13 Investigates found more than 100 prison employees fired this year
There have been at least 107 Texas Department of Criminal Justice employees dismissed with cause so far this year.

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (KTRK) -- After the state locked down prisons earlier this year to search for contraband, 13 Investigates is learning more about how often staff have been fired for bringing illegal substances into the facilities.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice said it started the sweep for contraband in September because it saw a surge in "dangerous contraband and drug-related inmate homicides."

The lockdown resulted in TDCJ finding 74.5 gallons of alcohol, 587 weapons, as well as cocaine, fentanyl, PCP meth and other illegal drugs.

RELATED: 16 inmate-on-inmate homicides this year in Texas prisons prompts systemwide lockdown, TDCJ says

13 Investigates wanted to know how prisoners got their hands on those substances. Through a series of public records requests, our investigation found so far this year, six employees were dismissed for having or trafficking drugs or contraband at prisons across the state.

In one case, a food service manager was found in possession of meth, according to TDCJ documents we obtained. In another, an officer had two bottles of liquid substances that tested positive for PCP and fentanyl.

The dismissal forms we received also show two corrections officers were fired for refusing to be searched during the lockdown and four others were fired for violation of rules that could have allowed for the spread of contraband. For example, one corrections officer intentionally let inmates roam freely and another allowed inmates out during a lockdown.

In a statement, TDCJ told 13 Investigates it has "high expectations for its staff."

"Employees found breaking policies or the law are held accountable through the disciplinary process and prosecution, when warranted. Employees found bringing contraband into the facility are terminated, investigated by the Office of Inspector General and referred for criminal charges, sending a clear message that such behavior will not be tolerated," according to TDCJ's statement.

RELATED: Drugs, weapons, and alcohol among items seized from Texas prisons during lockdown, TDCJ says

A spokesperson for TDCJ's Office of General Inspector told us last year, 89 cases involving employees were referred for prosecution to a Special Prosecution Unit. So far this year, there've been 78 cases involving employees referred to that unit.

In addition to the employees fired for contraband-related violations, the state dismissed employees for other reasons. So far this year, through mid-September, there have been at least 107 TDCJ employees dismissed with cause.

Six employees were fired for excessive force, six more were dismissed for sleeping on duty or just leaving their post, 11 were fired for conduct on-or-off duty, including one incident where a corrections officer was involved in a hit-and-run.

There were also 19 employees fired for unexcused absenteeism and 10 terminated for reasons involving a relationship with an inmate.

TDCJ remains committed to its mission of public safety and will continue to take a firm stance against employees who engage in illegal activities," according to a statement from the department.

For updates on this story, follow Kevin Ozebek on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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