Texas prison officials reviewing disciplinary cases after quota requirement revealed

Emails revealed a short-lived quota system that required COs to write up prisoners or face disciplinary consequences


By Keri Blakinger
Houston Chronicle

HOUSTON — The Texas prison system is reviewing dozens of disciplinary reports against inmates at the Ramsey Unit in Brazoria County after emails revealed a short-lived quota system that required correctional officers to write up prisoners or face disciplinary consequences.

The details come amid other allegations about unfair disciplinary practices in the weeks leading up to a hunger strike last month at a Huntsville unit.

"Every time I think I've seen everything, I see this," state Sen. John Whitmire told the Chronicle. "We don't condone speeding ticket quotas, why would we have quotas in a prison? It's nuts."

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice stressed that the quickly abandoned ultimatum issued by Capt. Reginald Gilbert was not a system-wide directive.

"There is not and never will be any agency policy that sanctions the use of quotas of any kind," said spokesman Jeremy Desel. "This incident is the result of the action of one unit captain which was quickly discovered and corrected by the unit warden."

Any disciplinary cases found connected to the emails will be tossed out, Desel said.

On March 9, Gilbert sent out an email to ranking prison officials demanding that each sergeant turn in paperwork for at least two cases per day.

"Effective March 10, 2018, each Sergeant will be required to turn in at least two (2) cases written by officers for a Level 2 Code 35 'Unauthorized Storage of Property,'" he wrote. "Two each day is my requirement. Remember this is to be done each workday without exception."

Any sergeants who missed their daily quota, Gilbert wrote, would face consequences ranging from documenting the oversight on an employee performance log to formal disciplinary action.

A couple hours later, another prison official responded, noting that the "below instructions will help greatly in fighting a gig," which former union president Lance Lowry explained is slang for an audit.

In April, Gilbert fired off another email, this time reducing the quota.

"Lieutenants inform your sergeants that I'm cutting the case requirement in half," he wrote, adding that sergeants should keep a "good balance" between two particular types of disciplinary violations.

"This should cut down on the minor cases being given to each of you," he continued. "Make sure they adhere to this or my requirement will go back up."

Less than a week later, Gilbert sent out another email, this time saying there was no case quota for the unit. After receiving an anonymous copy of the messages, the Chronicle put in a formal request for information on April 21.

Four days later, Warden Virgil McMullen sent out a message to lieutenants and above.

"This email is to reiterate the email I had Capt. Gilbert send out on April 6, 2018. We DO NOT and WILL NOT have case quotas on Ramsey Unit," he wrote. "Make sure any and all previous emails regarding case quotas are not being followed. We will follow agency policy."

It's not clear whether Gilbert will face any disciplinary consequences.

Despite official statements, Jennifer Erschabek of Texas Inmate Families Association said "bogus" cases are a systemic problem.

"One of the biggest complaints we have from family members is that an officer has written a bogus case and there's no way for people to fight that because it becomes a he said-he said type of situation and an inmate has no recourse," she said.

In the weeks leading up to the 10-day hunger strike at the Wynne Unit in Huntsville, Erschabek said she'd fielded numerous complaints about "bogus cases" sparking widespread unrest at the unit.

In step with TDCJ officials, state Rep. James White,   the Woodville Republican who chairs the House Corrections Committee, stressed that case quotas are not part of the prison system's policy.

"They have a charge to facilitate a rehabilitative environment, and to me that's not rehabilitative coming up with bogus stuff," he said. "If you're doing bogus things then you're probably missing a real security lapse somewhere. I would say we should not be doing that."

©2018 the Houston Chronicle

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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