CONROE - Community activist Quanell X and State Senator John Whitmire had harsh words for the Texas Department of Corrections on Tuesday, following their lengthy visit with recent escapee Arcade Comeaux, Jr. at the Montgomery County Jail. Both men also presented new and more disturbing details about the prison system and Comeaux’s escape.
Quanell X said Comeaux was assisted by a guard and a member of the medical staff at the Estelle Unit, as well as an organized network both in and outside of the prison system. Comeaux claims the pistol used in his escape was in his cell for three weeks.
Click the arrow to view video of Quanell X statement.
According to Quanell X, Comeaux has named the guard who was involved, but the problem is much bigger than one person.
“Governor Perry needs to take a serious look at TDC,” Quanell X said. “Additional funds need to come from somewhere in the state to revamp, to rebuild the Texas Department of Corrections and it needs to happen because right now it’s almost like the inmates are running the asylum.”
Quanell X said there is a “legitimate criminal enterprise inside TDC that has not been broken.”
“It is alive and well,” he said, “And if you have enough money you can get whatever the hell you want in TDC.”
Quanell X said everyone should have seen such an event coming after the number of cell phones confiscated in TDC and Senator Whitmire agreed.
“Over 900 cell phones were confiscated this year,” he said.
Whitmire, who is the Chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, said there should be a review of all security issues related to TDC including all forms of contraband because things that are not weapons can be used for bartering and still pose a danger to corrections officers.
Click the arrow to view Senator Whitmire statement.
“The alarming thing is, but for this episode, there would be today a loaded pistol in one of our most secure prisons and in one of the most secure parts of one of our most secure prisons,” Whitmire said. “I’m concerned and I think we have to assume that there’s other weapons and contraband in our prisons, not only Estelle but we have 112 locations
Whitmire cautioned that the information he received from an escapee. However, he qualified that statement saying Comeaux not only had an opportunity to know what was going on inside the prison system, but demonstrated that knowledge with his armed escape.
The senator is calling for a “complete security review of all 112 locations.”
“We have to hold people accountable inside prisons,” Whitmire said. “If they can’t clear them of contraband, we need to get a team who can.”
Whitmire said he plans to address the matter with every “stakeholder” in the situation from the governor’s office to the TDCJ director.
He said he was frustrated because the incident was not isolated or new and that contraband had been discussed for over a year. Two months ago, the Estelle Unit began conducting random patdowns, which Whitmire called “nonsense.”
“In my opinion, TCJ goes through a crisis, then it’s business as usual,” Whitmire said.
If schools, courthouses and airports can operate safely, so should prisons, he said.
“I spent the last four hours hearing security concerns from the escapee and it’s something that ought to make everyone angry,” Whitmire said. “And the problem is, I think I may be working harder than the prison officials and that disgusts me.”
“We should not be having this conversation,” he said.
Montgomery County First Assistant District Attorney Phil Grant said the case will go before a grand jury.
Click the arrow to view Grant’s statement.