Eleven convicts have been killed this year in Texas prisons, the most since 1997, when 10 prisoners were killed, reports the Austin American-Statesman. Last year, just three such homicides were reported. Officials say the near quadrupling of the murder total appears to be an anomaly without a single cause — a deadly uptick neighboring states say they haven't seen, though they have seen increased violence overall, which Texas has not.
So far, Texas officials say the homicides appear to be random acts of spontaneous violence between cellmates with no apparent pattern — not caused by short staffing at some prisons, not caused by a more violent or contentious environment behind the bars, not due to gang rivalries or even the fact that more convicts are serving longer sentences. “Anytime we have more than zero, we are concerned,” said Brad Livingston, executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which operates the 111 state prisons. “A broad sweep of the indicators is that the system is operating safely and smoothly with fewer problems — and then this one number.” Sexual assault reports have dropped from 343 last to 265 through October, weapons-possession cases are down from 1,102 to 837, and serious offender assaults are down from 1,222 to 1,028.