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By Board Chairman Oliver J. Bell
Oliver J Bell
As we begin the New Year, I want to take a moment to thank each of you for your hard work and dedication to this agency and to the safety of the citizens of Texas. In addition, as I have been quoted in several newspaper reports regarding the escape and recapture of offender Comeaux, I want to take this opportunity to share my thoughts regarding this matter and the agency's role in protecting public safety.
Following the recapture of offender Comeaux, the agency took several steps to review its security procedures. Initially, an outside company was retained to review and assess the Estelle Unit security environment. In addition, systemwide, each warden was directed to conduct an internal review of procedures and protocols. Further, TDCJ is reviewing available technology that could enhance communication between staff during offender transportation. Also, we will contract with an outside vendor to conduct periodic unit security audits.
With regard to atmosphere and environment, I would like to address the "Four Cs" of security:
Competence: Defined as the ability to perform a specific task, action or function successfully. I believe that the majority of our employees are highly competent, and we have the training programs in place to ensure competency. We are currently reviewing those training programs to make certain the right training is in place for individuals to acquire the desired skill sets and perform the skills as directed.
Compliance: Defined as fulfilling requirements as directed to you. While the scheduled reviews may determine the need to adjust our current policies, historically, the established policies and procedures have worked very well. It is through the experience of tenured TDCJ employees that we have learned, developed and refined these policies. TDCJ's policies and procedures not only keep our employees safe, but provide a safeguard for the public. If we are to assume we are compliant with policy 99.99 percent of the time, out of the 40,000 TDCJ employees, we could potentially have four costly errors. Failure to comply with policy puts fellow employees and the greater community at risk, and this is unacceptable.
Complacency: When we become complacent, and it only takes one or two complacent employees, we miss something. When we miss something, we have an issue. We cannot let our guard down. Complacency leads to mistakes, which can lead to terrible results. We must avoid complacency, which can be a bigger problem than corruption, for even a momentary letting down of your guard can cause problems. In TDCJ, I do not believe we have rampant corruption or rampant complacency. But if we have any corruption or complacency, it is too much. The general definition of rampant is "wide spread occurrence." Because we need to be error free, only one example of complacency in TDCJ is considered rampant, and that is too much!
Commitment: Going forward, we must redouble our efforts and recommit to our standards. We have the foundation to do this, and do it well. We cannot afford to fall short, because if we do, someone can be placed in danger. I want to impress upon everyone the importance of adhering to the established rules and regulations, which are designed not only for your safety, but also for the safety of the public. Our job in security is never complete, and we can never rest. It is only under these conditions that we can be successful.
This agency is made up of thousands of dedicated, caring employees, and because of you, we are the best correctional system in the nation. It is essential however that we continue to strive to be better, strive for zero tolerance and strive to keep our fellow employees, the offenders and the public safe. Remain vigilant, stay dedicated, and remember, what you do as a TDCJ employee is important to Texas.