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Mineral Wells Profile, Pt. 2

This is the second portion of a three-piece report from Texas Prison Bid'ness based on research Corrections Corporation of America's Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility conducted by Grassroots Leadership. The Mineral Wells facility is a contract-facility under the jurisdiction of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. For more information, please contact Nick Hudson using our contact form.

Use of Force- A controlling measure taken during a confrontational situation in an effort to cause an offender to do anything involuntarily. Uses of force are categorized as either Minor, Major or Deadly.
- TDCJ Use of Force Plan

In response to our requests, TDCJ released 32 basic portions of major use of force reports filed at Mineral Wells between January 1, 2006 and July 23 of 2008. Just 31 are included in this piece, because I'll be writing about the major disturbance that occurred at Mineral Wells in August of 2007 next Monday.

Major uses of force include incidents where a prisoner physically resists the application of restraints, chemical agents are discharged, batons or other instruments make contact with the prisoner in an effort to restore or preserve order, offensive or defensive physical contact is made, or anytime a prisoner is injured during a use of force.

By examining the reports provided in response to our request, we were able to get a rough picture of why and how prisoners were subjected to use of force at Mineral Wells during the time period of our request. In nine reports-- nearly one-third of the reports we received for the time period of our request-- force was reportedly used by staff in response to an assault by a prisoner. The most common use of force came in the form of a chemical agent. In many instances, "unnecessary force" was used. And the official phrase "unnecessary force" seemed in several instances like a charitable way of recording assaults of prisoners by guards.

I paid specific attention to use of force reports where contraband was mentioned. These reports are pertinent to a current discussion occurring in the halls of the Texas Capitol. An emergency meeting of the Texas Senate Committee on Criminal Justice was called on October 21, 2008 to focus on the problem of contraband inside of Texas prisons. This meeting was convened after the chairman of the committee received a phone call from a death row inmate using a contraband cell phone. The reports provided in response to our request showed that problems with contraband-- and contraband cell phones-- are pervasive in the CCA-managed Mineral Wells facility as they are in public facilities.

2006 Major Use of Force Reports

For 2006, we received four use of force reports from Mineral Wells. Force was used to stop two fights involving different prisoners, one in May and the other in November. The form of the major use of force in the November fight was a chemical agent; the form of the use of force in May is unclear, but both a prisoner and an officer suffered minor injuries according to the use of force report. In September, two officers were disciplined for violation of TDCJ's use of force plan with a prisoner that refused to go into Administrative Segregation, "after a verbal outburst which disrupted a disciplinary hearing." It is unclear what type of force was used on the prisoner that refused to go into administrative segregation. Additionally, a prisoner-on-guard assault in December that resulted in use of a chemical agent on the prisoner.

2007 Major Use of Force Reports

We received the bulk of use of force reports-- seventeen total-- from 2007. In 2007, five prisoner-on-staff assaults resulting in a major use of force were recorded. Use of a chemical agent on the prisoner was the major use of force in four out of five of the reports. Two officers sustained minor injuries after a prisoner reportedly, "pulled away from the officers escorting him striking an officer which resulted in the officer sustaining a minor injury" in one of the cases. In one other use of force report involving a prisoner-on-staff assault, an officer sustained minor injuries.

The final five use of force reports in 2007 involving assault of staff by a prisoner, an officer used force, "by grabbing the offender on the shoulder..." after he refused to submit to restraints. This was a violation of TDCJ's use of force plan, and two officers were reportedly disciplined.

One of the prisoner-on staff assaults that resulted in use of a chemical agent occurred when a prisoner pushed an officer out of the way while he "was attempting to dispose of a cell phone by throwing the phone over the security fence." In addition to this use of force report mentioning contraband, four other use of force reports from 2007 mention contraband.

In three use of force reports mentioning contraband in 2007, the use of force took the form of application of a chemical agent, and no one reportedly suffered any injuries. Two prisoners possessed unspecified contraband, and one of the two had, "received [the contraband] during a contact visitation session." The third prisoner in possession of contraband who suffered application of a chemical agent in 2007 was intoxicated and in possession of an alcoholic beverage. In the last major use of force report mentioning contraband in 2007, an officer restrained an offender who was smoking marijuana in his dormitory and attempted to run when discovered.

Eleven prisoners assaulted another inmate in April of 2007, resulting in application of pepper spray by an officer that witnessed the event to eliminate the threat to the victim. All eleven offenders were disciplined for assault. According to the report, "The eleven did pursue the offender and were armed with various items inside socks in order to strike the victim."

A staff member was fired in May of 2007 for failing to report an illegitimate use of force against a prisoner for eleven days. The kitchen staff member "struck the offender in the chest with a closed fist" after being "seized" by the prisoner. The prisoner was disciplined, "for discourteous conduct of a sexual nature," and no one was reportedly injured.

In August of 2007, officers used pepper gas on a purportedly suicidal prisoner after he, "picked up an object and motioned as if to be cutting his wrists." The offender was disciplined for disobeying a direct order to relinquish the object, and no one was reportedly injured.

Two use of force reports in which an offender was disciplined for, "creating a disturbance," resulted in violation by officers of TDCJ's use of force plan. In one case, an offender who beat on his administrative segregation cell door was subjected to a chemical agent. In the other, "There was physical contact which resulted in minor scratches," after a confrontation between an officer and a prisoner. The prisoner reportedly suffered minor injuries as a result of the officer's unnecessary use of force.

Chemical agents were used in two other use of force reports. In one report, the chemical agent was applied when an inmate refused to be restrained and obey a direct order. In the other, a prisoner threatened to inflict harm on an officer. No one was reportedly hurt in either incident.

2008 Major Use of Force Reports

We received ten use of force reports for the period of time between January 1st and July 23rd of this year.

In three of the reports provided for 2008, force was used after a prisoner allegedly assaulted an officer. The first of the cases occurred in February. An offender was, "disciplined for assaulting an officer and possession of a controlled substance," but in the summary of the report there is not mention of the prisoner making contact with the officer, or possessing a controlled substance.

A second use of force allegedly in response to an assault of a guard occurred in March. A struggle ensued after a prisoner refused to relinquish his contraband cell phone; it resulted in minor injuries to the officer, the offending prisoner, and a second by standing prisoner who was, "not a direct participant in the Use of Force."

The Warden and Assistant Warden at Mineral Wells were involved in the third use of force in response to what was described as an assault by a prisoner in 2008. After being spat on by a prisoner, Warden Phillips, "struck the offender in the side of the head with an open hand then grabbed the offender, [and] turned him around to prevent the additional possibility of assault with a bodily fluid." According to the report, filed in May, the Assistant Warden then, "grabbed the offender to prevent the offender from biting and spitting." The prisoner was treated for minor injuries, and the Warden is oddly not reported to have violated TDCJ's use of force plan.

Three of the ten use of force reports from 2008 we received mention contraband. In February, an offender was disciplined, "for assaulting an officer and possession of a controlled substance." In March, as mentioned above, an officer used force against and struggled with a prisoner who refused to surrender his contraband cell phone. And in April, a chemical agent was used on a prisoner, "who was in the process of climbing in a second story window after he and two offenders were involved in a tobacco contraband incident."

The 2008 reports reflect three instances where officers inappropriately used force against prisoners at Mineral Wells. The first, involving a cell phone, is mentioned above (twice). In April, an officer escorting a prisoner shoved him against a wall, "placed" him in a shower, and ripped off the offender's shirt, because the officer reportedly suspected, "concealed contraband"; No contraband was found, and the prisoner had to be treated for injuries. In March, during a struggle between an officer and a prisoner over a contraband cell phone, a bystanding prisoner was hit with a chemical agent. And in June, an officer reportedly shoved a prisoner twice after the offender balled up his fists and moved toward the officer, "in an apparent attempt to assault him." No one was reportedly hurt during the incident.

Comments

My ex husband is about to be released to the Mineral Well Pre parole Transfer facility. I have tried to warn him about the things I have been hearing going on out there. What kind of advice should I give him so he can come out without any trouble?