Houston Chronicle obtained an internal memo describing several internal affairs investigations into guard brutality at various units. At McConnell, investigators had uncovered an organized clique of guards who called themselves the “blue bandannas,” and who were suspected of organizing retaliatory assaults on inmates. Several McConnell officers were eventually fired as a result of that investigation, and two were indicted for assault and tampering with a witness, the latter for threats against fellow employees not to testify against them. One current C.O. at McConnell said he once asked a blue bandanna member why he joined. “We represent the gray,” the guard told him. According to Sammy Buentello, director of the agency’s Security resurfaced after that investigation was completed. But tales of out-of-control officers and supervisors continue to plague the unit. Sexual harassment is rife, several guards said. “Everybody warned me about the man in white. Nobody told me to watch the man in gray,” said one former female McConnell officer, who filed a successful sexual harassment suit against her former supervisor. Her husband, who also worked at McConnell, was retaliated against by her former supervisors until he, too, left the agency. He is currently suing the agency. In 1994, dozens of complaints of sexual harassment were logged, and numerous lawsuits filed against T.D.C.J. for failure to discipline violators. In the summer of 1994, a McConnell sergeant pleaded guilty to attempted sexual assault of a female guard, who was on duty at the time. She later filed a lawsuit against him, the board, and the former executive director, claiming it was “the de facto policy and custom” of the agency to “allow sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape of female employees by supervisors, and to ignore complaints.” Executive Director Wayne Scott appears in a video about sexual harassment all officers are required to watch. Titled “Zero Tolerance,” the video is widely ridiculed at the agency, which commonly transfers supervisors accused of harassment, according to officers. “YOU DIDN’T SEE THAT” So who killed Daniel Nagle, and why? Several officers \(and a Mcprime suspect, Robert Lynn Pruett, a young white inmate serving a life sentence. \(He was not officially named until his March 21 indictment, but his removal from the unit the evening of the crime identified him who knew the inmate personally. “He didn’t have it in him.” There is a clear division among inmates, officers say, between those who will fight to protect themselves and those who will not. The inevitability of violence inside the system renders it almost banal for most officers, and there is a palpable indifference in their frank descriptions of it, as in the case of Pruett, who they say was frequently on the receiving end of violence. “Officers have walked up on this inmate getting raped before, he’s been discovered beaten unconscious in the kitchen, he’s tried to commit suicide several times. He’s a little patsy,” one officer said. He believes that T.D.C.J. wants Pruett to take the blame because the real story is much more damning for the unit and for the agency. The officers say the real story is right in front of the agency’s nose. The day I arrived in Beeville, T.D.C.J. internal affairs investigators arrested three correctional officers in a restaurant parking lot in Goliad, about thirty miles north of Beeville on Highway 59. Investigators confiscated a package containing $60,000. The officers, a hus band and wife from the McConnell Unit and a boss the wife’s brother from the Garza West Unit \(in collusion with a fourth offithe money in a bank account, apparently on behalf of inmates. Their cut was to have been $10,000. On March 21, all four were indicted on bribery charges, the same day Nagle’s accused killer was indicted on charges of capital murder of a correctional officer. Several C.O.’ s I spoke with believe these dirty bosses were in league with prison gangs at various Beeville prison units, and that they and their gang associates inside had something to do with Nagle’s murder. It’s not as farfetched as it may sound. That $60,000, plus a great deal more, could easily have been generated by contraband sales to inmates. A single cigarette sells for two or three dollars inside a unit, where inmate smoking has been banned since 1995. Other drugs, like pot, cocaine, and heroin, sell for much more than their street value. Contraband sales are controlled by the prison gangs. In South Texas Mexican Mafia. Both are Latino gangs that exist both inside and in the free world. Virtually the only way for inmates to get contraband inside is through the guards, who are not searched as they enter and leave. Everyone knows this. According to Bee County Assistant District Attorney Herb Hancock, whose district encompasses eight or nine South Texas prison units, his office indicts “several” C.O.s every month on bribery charges. Most get probation, he says. \(He Dirty bosses are a fact of life, says Mario Mufiiz. “They get new trucks, they get into debt, they can’t make their payments,” he said. “But they can get fifty dollars for a pack of smokes.” The boss smuggles in the goods, which the gangs then resell at even higher prices, earning thousands of dollars. “But they suck you in, and pretty soon it’s more and more,” Mufiiz said. If a boss later tries to get out of the arrangement, the inmates give him up to internal affairs. Thus the dirty bosses and the gangs either prosper or go down together. “That [officer] is my boy,” is an expression often heard in gang circles inside, according to a McConnell inmate. Where does all the money go? Much of it ends up in free world bank accounts, or is laundered somehow in Bee County. For that you need people outside, and the best link to the outside world is the man in gray, who goes back and forth everyday. The agency does not deny that guards and gangs collude, but the story is seldom reported, because internal affairs investigations are not generally made available to the public. Often they end in quiet terminations \(or, as some officers wind of it. Sammy Buentello concedes that it’s a longstanding problem at the agency. “Ever since we’ve had prison gangs, there have been some officers that have been lured I guess you’d say to the dark side,” he said. “My understanding is there was some ties to prison gang activity,” he said of the recent arrests in Goliad and Beeville, although he stressed that he had yet to see the internal affairs report. Several officers claimed it was widely known that at least one of the officers arrested in Goliad was affiliated with Texas Syndicate. “This is what we’re trying to get rid of,” one C.O. at the union hall told me. \(In private, one officer later named three other alleged Texas Syndisidered themselves to be at war with this element within T.D.C.J. They are afraid of losing that war. Danny Nagle was their leader in this ef 14 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MARCH 31, 2000 4_100101.100!..,…q.e.e.1.01romirOkAt+.1100NOMMINIL
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