AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – The TDCJ has canceled all visitation until further notice and announced an “immediate lockdown and comprehensive search” of its correctional facilities will be put into effect in response to what the department said is a rise in “dangerous contraband and drug-related inmate homicides.”
Officials said that the move comes after an increase in the volume of illegal drugs entering the TDCJ system over the last five years, impacting the safety of staff and inmates. TDCJ reported that in 2023 it has had 16 inmate-on-inmate homicides, most of which officials believe “are tied back to illegal drugs.”
“These incidents have heightened concerns regarding the safety and security of inmates, staff, and the public,” TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier said. “A lockdown is a necessary response to confront the root causes of this crisis, enhance security measures, and ensure the well-being of all individuals within our agency. We are committed to finding the narcotics, but also working with the Office of Inspector General and outside law enforcement to dismantle the networks that are trafficking drugs into our systems.”
The TDCJ said that its lockdown measures will include:
- Systemwide Lockdown
- Each facility will limit the movement of inmates and their contact with those outside the prison. Inmates and staff will undergo intensified searches for contraband.
- Digital Mail
- As of Wednesday, inmate mail will be sent to the digital mail center, scanned, and uploaded to the tablets. This digital mail program was made in response to what TDCJ said was a “significant increase in paper soaked in K2 or methamphetamines” coming to TDCJ facilities.
- TDCJ said it will establish tiplines for inmates, staff and families to report suspicious activities or information related to contraband.
- Increased K9 Searches and Other Technology
- TDCJ said it will deploy additional resources such as search teams and narcotic search dogs to units, and that staff will be subject to “enhanced search procedures.”
- Comprehensive Searches
- Every person entering TDCJ facilities at any location will undergo comprehensive searches.
- Increased Drug Testing
- TDCJ said it will implement a heightened drug testing protocol “to identify individuals involved in drug-related activities.”
Further lockdown measures might be put in place as necessary, said TDCJ, for the intended benefit of “all those within its care.” Visitation has been canceled until further notice, said the TDCJ, due to staff concentrating on search efforts. However, officials said that inmates will still have access to the phone system and tablets.
“The safety of inmates, staff, and the public is our highest priority,” TDCJ Inspector General Cris Love said. “Illegal drugs within our facilities will not be tolerated. Individuals found smuggling contraband will be arrested and subject to prosecution.”
The TDCJ said that normal operations will resume after the comprehensive searches are completed.
These additional lockdown measures are also expected to impact the William P. Clements Unit in northeast Amarillo, which the TDCJ described as a 2,932-capacity prison covering G1-G5, security detention, and mental health custody levels.