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as he wants to be,” said agency spokesman Glen Castlebury, who flatly refused to allow the soon-to-be ousted training director to give me a guided tour of the agency’s main training facility, the Edmundo Mireles Academy, which is also located in Beeville. Godwin did invite me to his office at the academy, which sits on the grounds of an old naval air station, between two medium security transfer units, Garza East and Garza West. Billed as the nation’s largest facility of its kind by virtue of the huge class sizes trained there, the academy’s facilities \(which I toured by means of a video prepared by Godwin for the T.D.C.J. board two y cramped dorms have no working restrooms. New recruits are greeted by a row of Port-a-Johns, which the agency has rented for years. The video shows other training facilities across the state in a depressing state of disrepair: modular buildings damaged by wind and weather, rain-soaked and mildewed carpets, dormitories more cramped than inmate facilities. Training, according to Godwin, has gotten lost in the shuffle, even as the rest of the agency’s budget has exploded. Ordered by the courts to reduce overcrowding and to take the pressure off county jails forced to house state prisoners, T.D.C.J. went on a building spree beginning in the late eighties. Contractors \(and towns like up to get a piece of the largest public investment program in the state’s history. The number of facilities jumped from just sixteen units in 1972 to 112 in 1998, with more on the drawing board. The new units were rapidly filled. Driven by tougher sentencing laws, reduced use of parole, and skyrocketing drug arrests, the number of inmates grew from roughly 40,000 statewide in 1988 to over 150,000 today. The budget for training personnel has not kept pace. “They made great strides under Ruiz in the 1980s,” Godwin recalls, “but once the court stopped breathing down their necks, they had other priorities.” \(The Ruiz v. Estelle case, named after the prisoner who filed suit against T.D.C.J. in the early seventies, is the still active court case that resulted in the federal government seizing authority over Texas prisons in 1980, and was the impetus for every major reform in the eighties: from the size of cells, to inmate to guard ratios, access to recreation, and, crucially, the end of the use of building tenders older, usually white inmates who acted as snitches and years, class sizes for officer recruits became cumbersome and then ridiculously large. Single instructors teach up to 100 recruits at a time, making hands-on training prohibitive. Dangerously little time is spent on self-defense and other basic safety tactics, Godwin said. Even with the state’s training academies running at full bore, the agency cannot keep up with the rate of attrition. According to an internal security report leaked to Carlos Guerra of the San Antonio ExpressNews, the agency found that in ten prisons surveyed, up to 27 percent of critical security positions were left unfilled. Mario Mufiiz, a C.O. at Garza West, estimates that of the seventy-one guards needed to run his unit, about fifty are present on any given shift. “We are each asked to do the work of two people,” he said. \(Because of the poor pay, many do the work of three. A major at Mutliz’s unit moonlights at Waltions are ignored on a daily basis, according to officers. Godwin suggested that the shortage may be by design. “The agency has become dependent on expending money appropriated for officer salaries in other areas,” he claimed. The administration the best it can under difficult circumstances. It would be hard to do worse. There is still no recruiter in Beeville, Godwin pointed out. Employees are encouraged to refer friends and relatives. The reward for a successful referral is a certificate with a gold star. Many officers already work with a brother, sister, or spouse. It’s not unusual for three generations of families to work at a unit. Daniel Nagle’s wife, Crystal, worked at McConnell with her husband until she quit to have Inmate family advocates object to the practice of hiring spouses to work at the same unit. Things are tense enough on the units, they say, without a husband having to defend his wife against taunts, or worse, from inmates, and the potential for relationships to become dangerously personal is too great. Sexual relationships between female \(and FATAL ENVIRONMENT The upshot of all this, officers claim, is that Texas prisoners are out of control. “The inmates have seen us on TV, saying we’re shorthanded. They say, ‘Hey, you better watch your back,'” said Mario Mufiiz. That’s good advice. Today’s inmates are more violent in general, many officers say, more likely to be in gangs, more likely to be serving longer sentences with less to lose. The union cites a tremendous increase in assaults by inmates on staff, from just 132 in 1988, to over 2,000 in 1999. Some of that increase is due to changes in what is counted as an assault. In 1999, for example, roughly onethird of assaults did not involve a weapon. These can range from throwing a punch to shoving a guard. The remaining two-thirds were categorized as “assaults with a weapon,” but only a small percentage of these, about 5 percent, involved what would normally be considered a weapon outside of prison. Fifty-six percent involved throwing a liquid, such as water or tea, at a guard. Another sixteen percent involved bodily fluids, which include spit, urine, or feces \(the practice of “chunking,” or saving excrement to throw on Other “weapons” include food, doors, handcuffs, and chairs. Which is not to say that inmates do not seriously injure guards, as well as one another, on a regular basis. In early March, a McConnell guard was speared through the testicles with a homemade spear called a paper pole. A paper pole is a conical tube fashioned from paper, tightly rolled and sealed with tape, stuffed with toilet paper to make it hard, and fitted with a sharp point \(from a ballpoint pen or a with a piece of rubber stretched taut into a powerful slingshot. Paper poles can be fired across buildings from one block of cells to another. Inmates will fashion a makeshift knife, or shank, out of almost anything. Pens and pencils are frequently used as stabbing weapons. And there is always a sudden fist or a foot to watch out for. \(“He stole But the men in white are not the only violent people in Texas prisons. That is the flip side to the union’s claim of more violent inmates, according to Steve Martin, a prison consultant and former general counsel at T.D.C.J. More than anything else, Martin believes, the loss of control at McConnell and elsewhere is the result of an inexperienced workforce and the poor quality of recruits. As a C.O. in the 12 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MARCH 31, 2000