Texas Prison Shakedown Leads to Phones, Weapons
October 28, 2008 - 10:36 AMA systemwide shakedown of the huge Texas prison system is netting authorities more contraband than just illegal cell phones.
Officers have turned up 61 weapons, 52 instances of tobacco products and 14 discoveries of money - all prohibited for the some 155,000 inmates in the state's 111 prisons.
That's on top of the 120 phone and phone components like chargers found as the first full week of the inspections ended Monday.
A statewide lockdown of the system began hours after death row inmate Richard Tabler was caught making a call from his cell. The phone had been traced to a series of calls that began earlier this month to state Sen. John Whitmire.
Authorities said Tabler also shared the device with at least nine of his fellow condemned prisoners. Investigators determined some 2,800 calls were made from the phone from inside the Polunsky Unit near Livingston.
Tabler was moved Wednesday to a prison medical psychiatric facility after officers believed he was attempting to kill himself, and Tabler's mother and sister both have been charged with introducing contraband into the prison system, a felony, for buying minutes to keep the phone active.
Inspections at about 15 units were completed, meaning an easing of the lockdown that had confined prisoners to their cells and barred visitations of inmates by relatives. Authorities believe bribed corrections officers are responsible for a number of the contraband items.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said the prisons where the order was lifted primarily were smaller units, like substance abuse and medical facilities. At least one women's prison, the Mountain View Unit outside Gatesville, also was off lockdown, she said, along with intermediate sanction facilities in West Texas and North Texas.
Officials had estimated the shakedown in the nation's second-largest corrections system could last about three weeks at some of the large units, which can hold nearly 3,000 prisoners.
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