connections logo

 

An employee publication of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
May/June 2011

Polunsky Award

Polunsky Unit Employee of the Year: quick action prevents escape, two officers recognized

On the evening of January 29, 2010, Correctional Officer Robert Griffis noticed movement at the perimeter fence of the Polunsky Unit and immediately called Officer Louis Hearren for back-up. Their quick and decisive action foiled an escape attempt by five offenders and defused a potentially dangerous situation. In honor of their exemplary service protecting the public, officers Griffis and Hearren received the Allan B. Polunsky Unit Employee of the Year Award.


Allan B. Polunsky and Correctional Officer V Louis Hearren

Former Texas Board of Criminal Justice Chairman Allan B. Polunsky and Correctional Officer V Louis Hearren.
Photo by Jene Robbins

Allan B. Polunsky and Correctional Officer V Robert Griffis
 
Former Texas Board of Criminal Justice Chairman Allan B. Polunsky and Correctional Officer V Robert Griffis.
Photo by Jene Robbins
 

back to top

_______________________________________________________________________

Prison Rape Elimination Act ombudsman: zero tolerance for in-prison sexual assault

 

PREA Ombudsman Ralph Bales
 
PREA Ombudsman Ralph Bales
Photo by Jene Robbins
 

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has strived to eliminate sexual assault in prison. As Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) ombudsman, Ralph Bales, in conjunction with the Correctional Institutions Division's Safe Prisons Program Management Office and the Office of the Inspector General, works to achieve that goal.

The PREA was enacted by the United States Congress in 2003 with two important intentions: to increase awareness of and encourage the adoption of a nationwide zero tolerance attitude toward in-prison sexual assault. The TDCJ PREA ombudsman position was created by the 80th Texas Legislature in 2007 and reports directly to the Texas Board of Criminal Justice.

"We want to have an external set of eyes that can look at what's out there and monitor the state's policies and procedures in order to ensure compliance," said Bales. The separate Safe Prisons Program Management office, of the Correctional Institutions Division, handles day-to-day operations. Part of his job is to monitor those efforts.

"My job is twofold," he said. "Not only do I oversee administrative investigations, but I also serve as the office to respond to public inquiries dealing with sexual assault allegations."

Bales said staff members, who receive both pre-service and in-service anti-assault training through the Safe Prisons Program, can help prevent prison rape simply by being observant and reporting incidents of assault.

"If offenders know that these officers are watching them and are diligent about pursuing anyone who assaults someone else, then there is certainly going to be less likelihood of these things occurring," he said.

Bales also said family and friends of offenders have responded positively to his office's role in efforts to eliminate sexual assaults.

"Public feedback has been very positive, but I think a lot of the public still doesn't know who we are," he said. "Part of our initiative this year is to make sure that we get our name out there and people understand who we are and that we're here to help."

TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston continued to emphasize that preventing in prison sexual assault is not the job of any single individual or office, but is the responsibility of all employees.

"The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has a zero tolerance policy concerning sexual assault and any other form of sexual misconduct." Livingston said. "The PREA ombudsman and the Office of Inspector General have important roles to play, but it is an agency policy for which we are all responsible."

Any staff member knowledgeable of a sexual assault or alleged sexual assault that occurs within a TDCJ correctional facility must immediately report the allegation in accordance with agency policy

 

back to top

 

_______________________________________________________________________

 

 






 

 

 

 

 

 

Features

 

 

 

 

 

star bulletBoard Bulletin

star bullet Agency News

star bulletSaluting Employees

star bulletFeatures

Polunsky Award

Prison Rape Elimination Act ombudsman: zero tolerance for in-prison sexual assault

star bulletIn Brief

star bullet Policies and Benefits