Newschannel 6 Exclusive: Inside Allred

Published: Nov. 5, 2010 at 12:38 PM CDT|Updated: Feb. 16, 2011 at 10:09 PM CST
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Just in the last 12 months, we've reported two cases involving reports of abuse and neglect and claims the James V. Allred unit in Iowa Park is among the worst in the nation.

We wanted to know what life was really like behind prison walls.

Allred gave us exclusive, unprecedented access to their facilities and let our cameras roll during every step of our tour.

Lindsey Rogers spent the day at Allred and takes us inside, in a Newschannel 6 exclusive.

Following reports of abuse, we sought to find out what life is really like on the inside.

There are 3,650 inmates at Allred. With 720 correctional officers.  That's one officer to every five inmates.

The maximum security facility opened in 1995 and is the second largest in the state.

The expansion cell blocks, or high security section, hold some of the most dangerous criminals.

"I honestly feel that people don't understand what goes on out there," one former employee said.

We started our search for answers with a woman who was an Allred employee for ten years.

She's a former Charge RN and for her safety, wanted to remain anonymous.

"I truly believe that people have the wrong impression. That they really think that most officers are as wicked as the offenders where I don't see that at all," she said, and goes on to call it "a city within a city."

This week we were given access inside to see what it was like. But, before entering the high security facility, we had to leave the free world behind.  We handed in our cell phones, drivers license, and cash for unprecedented access.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics named Allred one of the worst in the nation for prisoner abuse.

We asked one of the deputy wardens about that number.

He told us other states only keep record of an assault if the abuser is tried and convicted.  In Texas, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice employees are required to record everything.

"Any claim is looked into. Even if it's an offender that's said over and over I've been raped. He may have said it 15 times each claim is taken seriously," the former nurse said.

Multiple investigators on staff look into all abuse allegations and complaints.

"It resolves a lot of issues. The offenders claims need to be heard and so, that's where we come in and we will resolve it. The offenders need that avenue that way if there is something that comes up we can assist them and it saves the state a lot of money and it saves the offender a lot of aggravation. It's an important process of TDC," alternate investigator at Allred Cleofe Palma said.

Sometimes those inmate claims make it to court. Like, in the case of former Allred correctional officer Richard Carter who admitted to telling an inmate he wouldn't be paroled and wouldn't get hot meals if he didn't commit sexual acts two years ago.

The former employee we talked with hasn't worked at Allred since 2006, but, recalls the legitimate sexual assault incidents that occurred in the ten years she was there.

"I can only remember maybe one between an offender and a officer. I have seen maybe three between offenders."

She said while they do investigate every incident, many turn out to be false claims.

"He's looking to get somebody in trouble. He's got nothing else to do but get people in trouble," she said.

"That is what they do. They can manipulate the system and that is what they try to do every day," Safe Prisons officer Kirk Winkles said.

Both former and current employees say inmates scheme against each other and often times, plot against the employees.

"You don't want to become over familiar where that inmate is going to ask you for a favor sooner or later because they will ask you for a favor. Or, they're going to nudge you to see if you are someone who would be interested in giving them a favor so, the longer you work here that's one thing you have to deal with and sometimes they have officers who have worked here one or three months that does something for an inmate and unfortunately they have officers that have been here for ten years that have done something for an inmate," correctional officer Timothy Tallman said.

The former employee we talked with said newer guards have the hardest time.

They have to get over their fear while trying to prove themselves without taking advantage of their new power.

"There is such a fine line between going to far and not doing enough," the former employee said.

"You don't know what to do. You don't know what to say. You don't know where to go or stand or how to conduct yourself with the offenders. You have a lot to learn . There's a huge learning curve," officer Winkles said.

After a few months, Winkles said you figure out how to gain the inmates' respect without crossing the line.

"The offenders know that I will always be fair with them, I will always be firm with them and I will always be consistent. If they need something from me and they can legally have it, that's what they can get. If they can not they will not," he said.

While we were touring the Administration Segregation building, officers did have to get firm after an inmate refused to comply.

A five man team was called to his cell fully suited in their riot gear, ready to enter without hesitation.

We later found out officers did not have to use force with that inmate, which means a good day at Allred.

In the Warden's words, the goal is for everyone who enters to leave safely and for everyone who lives at Allred to stay at Allred.

"I truly believe that most officers out there are there to do their jobs," the former nurse said.

"My job there was not to think about their crime. My job there was to take care of them no matter what their crime was," she said.

Lindsey Rogers, Newschannel 6