Sam Houston professor shares how realistic TDCJ's recommendations are following inmate escape

Erica Simon Image
Saturday, December 10, 2022
Criminal justice professor shares how realistic Texas Department of Criminal Justice's recommendations are after inmate escape
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The Texas Department of Criminal Justice's internal investigation gave deeper insight into the deadly inmate escape earlier this year and reviewed plan going forward.

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (KTRK) -- The Texas Department of Criminal Justice released its internal investigation into the deadly inmate escape that happened earlier this year and reviewed the agency's transport recommendations from now on.

RELATED: Gonzalo Lopez's escape from prison bus aided by staffing shortages and security lapses, TDCJ finds

When Gonzalo Lopez escaped a prison transport bus in May, he was on the run for three weeks. During that time, he killed five members of the Collins family from Tomball.

The newly released report points out that failures started hours before Lopez actually got on the bus scheduled to take him to a medical appointment at another facility.

The report says the most significant factors contributing to the escape were staffing shortages and a lapse in security.

While on the bus, Lopez allegedly showed other inmates two long, metal weapons with a string tied to them and what looked like a handcuff key in his mouth. Inmates on the bus began making loud noises, rapping, banging, and blocking the view of another officer in the back of the bus, while Lopez spent 90 minutes breaking through the bottom of a restrictive compartment using two metal weapons.

Among the 19 new recommendations, one is to do away with letting inmates know in advance of their transport date. They also recommended strip searches and notification that inmates are receiving certain publications. In this case, Lopez ordered serval publications regarding survival techniques, weapons manufacturing and manipulation. Those materials were denied, but no administrators were notified of the attempted delivery.

Criminal justice professor at Sam Houston State University, Mitchel P. Roth, believes some of the new recommendations are realistic, while others will take real effort.

"I think there has to be better training on being cognizant on what all the prisoners are doing on the bus while they're being transported, which apparently was the biggest flaw in the movement of this prisoner for transport to Huntsville," Roth explained. "You got to fix it on the front end before you fix it on the back end really, and it seems clear what the answers all are. Better security. Basically making sure that people are sitting in the right place. Because in this case, the individual swapped places on the bus so he could be directly behind the driver."

To learn more about the reported lapses in this case and read the full report, go here. CGL Lopez Report.pdf

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