After a bizarre death row confession plot between two Texas prisoners slated for execution, the correctional officers’ union is calling for more staffing, claiming that could have prevented the scheme that derailed the state’s effort to put to death a serial killer, reports the Houston Chronicle. “This was definitely a security breakdown,” said Lance Lowry, who heads the Texas Correctional Employees union. “You’re playing Russian roulette when you don’t have enough security.” Texas prisons have more inmates per officer than other large states like New York and California, he said, adding that death row in particular needs “a lot more officers.” The Texas Department of Criminal Justice disagrees. “Death row is appropriately staffed and all critical positions are filled,” said spokesman Jason Clark. “Staffing played no role in this confession scheme between death row offenders.”
The hand-wringing over staffing stems from an alleged plot between condemned inmates Anthony Shore and Larry Swearingen, which came to light a few hours before Shore was set to die by lethal injection. A judge stayed Shore’s execution for 90 days after prosecutors said the four-time killer had admitted to an abandoned plan to confess to Swearingen’s crime, the 1998 killing of college student Melissa Trotter. Swearingen has long professed his innocence, though he still is slated for execution in November. “We need a lot more officers on those cell blocks,” the union chief said. “A lot of people think those inmates are locked in a cell so they can’t do anything, but that’s not always the case.” Even more officers probably wouldn’t have been enough to stop the supposed friendship between Shore and Swearingen, Lowry admitted, though it may have prevented any potential transfer of case materials.