In a new push designed to bolster security and curb contraband in Texas' massive prison system, officials for the first time plan to order random drug tests for most of the 41,000 guards and other corrections employees, reports the Austin American Statesman. Bryan Collier, deputy director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said the new policy expected to be unveiled next week is designed to raise staffing standards inside Texas' 112 state prisons.
Like other state prison systems, Texas' state-run lockups have had chronic problems with contraband – highlighted two years ago when a death-row convict used a smuggled cell phone to call a key state senator. A zero-tolerance policy since then had resulted in the seizure of thousands of weapons, drugs, phones and other illicit items – but a smuggled gun used in an escape and a string of other headline-grabbing incidents have made prison contraband a continuing public-safety issue. While prison officials insisted the costs of the random tests are still being calculated, union officials suggested the program could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.