by Terri Langford, The Texas Tribune
February 18, 2016
Editor's note: This story has been updated.
Texas prison officials have recommended the firing of a supervisor at the Clements Unit and disciplinary actions against 17 others for failing to conduct required checks on a cell where an inmate was severely beaten. The inmate later died.
"Our preliminary review has identified areas where policies, unrelated to the homicide, were not being properly followed by certain correctional staff at the prison," said Jason Clark, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Of the 18 Clements Unit correctional officers disciplined, one — Major Rowdy Boggs — has been recommended for dismissal, Clark said. The remaining 17 have been disciplined including suspensions without pay and letters of reprimand, he said. The 3,700-inmate Clements Unit is outside Amarillo.
Clark declined to say how long the assigned cell of inmates Alton Rodgers and Joe Greggs remained unopened and searched before the 31-year-old Rodgers was found unresponsive on Jan. 18. Rodgers, who suffered a skull fracture and bleeding in his brain, died the following day. Clark said a criminal investigation of the case is pending.
TDCJ requires correctional officers to check on inmates every 30 minutes. Twice a day, inmates are required to come to the door of their cells and show their IDs to officers in what is known as a "bed book check." At least once a month, officers are to enter each cell and search it.
"They were not appropriately doing those checks," Clark said.
A source with knowledge of the investigation confirmed to The Texas Tribune that the once-a-month cell search was not conducted and that the correctional officers being disciplined had covered up that fact. It is not known if the bed book checks were not completed. Clark said the prison system has started a serious incident review to take a closer look at the events surrounding Rodgers' homicide.
"There was a level of complacency regarding cell checks that was unacceptable," he said.
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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2016/02/18/18-tdcj-correctional-officers-disciplined-after-in/