Report reveals death row inmates made 3000 calls on cell phone


by Jeremy Desel and Kevin Peters / 11 News

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:38 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 20 at 11:01 AM

HOUSTON - A second arrest warrant will be issued Wednesday morning in the case of the death row cell phones. All prisons in Texas remain on lockdown so that guards can search every prisoner and every cell block for phones and other contraband.

Reporter's name 11 News report

So far, eleven phones have been found.

Texas prisons are waiting on a ruling from the Federal Communications Commission. They want to know if it is legal to jam cell phone calls.

Two more phones turned up on death row on Monday. And since the , officials have found eight phones, eleven chargers and one SIM card in other prisons.

To address security concerns, State Senator John Whitmire of Houston, the chair of the Criminal justice Committee, called an emergency hearing last night.

In addition to jamming cell phone calls, he also suggested all guards be patted down every time they go to death row.

"We are talking about a death row inmate calling me. Talking about my daughters," said Whitmire.

The OIG report discovered that death row inmate Richard Tabler and nine other inmates had been using the phone.

The report does not name the inmates, but Whitmire mentioned that several of them are known Mexican Mafia, Texas Syndicate, Crips and other dangerous individuals. He said they made 3000 phone calls to San Antonio, Houston and around Texas.

Those calls were made all with one phone. Guards confiscated that inmate's cell phone, but a search turned up two more.

Authorities said Tabler's phone was purchased at a Wal-Mart with the ability to recharge its minutes remotely. A guard smuggled the phone inside after he was paid $2,100. Family members of the inmates would then purchase minutes for the phone.

Already Tabler's mother is under arrest for allegedly buying minutes, but she isn't the only one involved in the scam.

The entire investigation was initiated by Senator Whitmire after he received the first of many calls from Richard Tabler.

"He said I've been doing some checking and I see you have two daughters," said Whitmire.

This is not something you want to hear from a murderer-e specially one with nothing to lose.

John Moriarty is the Inspector General for TDCJ. He said the total death row investigations regarding cell phones, or cell phone parts, is up to 21 this year. Twenty cases are for phones and one case is for a charger.

In all, there are 700 incidents this year around the entire prison system.