Texas prison system on lockdown to address violence, drugs

The entrance to Ellis Unit in Huntsville, Texas, is marked by a double fence, a locked gate, and razor wire. Texas has the largest prison system in the nation, with the town of Huntsville being home to the system's headquarters and nine state prisons (Photo by Greg Smith/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) is enacting new lockdown measures to address rising violence and drugs in Texas prisons.

TDCJ says that over the last five years, the volume of illegal narcotics entering the prisons has substantially increased and that in 2023, there have been 16 inmate-on-inmate homicides.

Officials currently believe a majority of the incidents are tied to illegal drugs.

In response, TDCJ is implementing an immediate lockdown and comprehensive search of all their correctional facilities, as well as other measures:

  • 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 to intercept and confiscate contraband.
  • Digital Mail: TDCJ is completing the rollout of the digital mail program. Effective Sept. 6, inmate mail will be sent to the digital mail center, scanned, and uploaded to the tablets. Over the last few years, there has been a significant increase in paper soaked in K2 or methamphetamines coming into TDCJ facilities. The digital mail program will halt this contraband being sent through traditional mail.
  • Tiplines: TDCJ is establishing dedicated tiplines for inmates, staff and families to report any suspicious activities or information related to contraband.
  • Increased K9 Searches and Other Technology: To assist in contraband detection and outside funding related to contraband, TDCJ will be deploying additional resources. Specialized search teams and narcotic dogs will be deployed to units and staff will be subject to enhanced search procedures.
  • Comprehensive Searches: All persons entering our facilities at all locations will undergo comprehensive searches.
  • Increased Drug Testing: A heightened drug testing protocol will be implemented to identify individuals involved in drug-related activities.

Additional measures may be implemented as necessary.

Due to the fact staff will be concentrating on these search efforts, visitation will be canceled until further notice. Inmates will still have access to the phone system and tablets.

Once these comprehensive searches are complete, normal operations will resume.