Officers at the Jim Ferguson Unit near Midway used two canisters of CS gas on inmates on July 7, after 47 offenders refused to leave the prison’s dayroom, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which oversees the unit.
“On July 7 at the Ferguson Unit, officers had to use two canisters of CS to gain control of 47 offenders who refused to leave a dayroom,” said TDCJ Director of Communications Jeremy Desel in an official statement. “There was one injury to an offender who attempted to break a window and suffered a cut to his arm. There were no other injuries.”
The incident first came to the attention of the Meteor through Facebook messages from individuals who are close to the inmates involved. The individuals were concerned about what they believed to be unfair punishments placed on their loved ones who were inside the dayroom at the time.
“A lot of guys that had nothing to do with it caught major cases and the wardens and majors simply said that since others were in the dayroom when it happened, they have to have a case,” alleged a Facebook message from MaKenzie Wright. “Due to the gassing my loved one’s hand was broken trying to get out of the crossfire, not to mention he was on the phone with me when it all began to happen.”
The TDCJ could not comment on any disciplinary actions placed on the 47 inmates involved in the aftermath of the incident.
“All that I am able to discuss about the incident itself is that the entire group of offenders refused orders to disperse and leave the dayroom,” said Desel. “We would not comment on the specific nature of the response due to security concerns.”
Facebook messengers were also concerned about the specific gas used and if it were appropriate for the situation. One Facebook messenger claimed that the specific gas was only to be used during outside riots and that the guards involved would receive write-ups by the prison for using it inside.
“My initial look into the investigation suggests that the correct gas canisters were used for the situation,” said Desel. “I have not heard anything against any Correctional Officers in connection with the incident.”
Unrelated to the specific incident, the Meteor received a letter from an inmate named Jaylon English within the Ferguson Unit alleging unfair treatment as a result of a smoking violation. He claims to have not been smoking at all and that the security video portrays him “cleaning a bowl” at the time. What he was alleged to be smoking was not mentioned in the letter.
“I was first told by a sergeant that he personally saw me smoking via video surveillance,” said English in his letter. “It was later revealed to me that I wasn’t smoking, but I’m guilty by association. I’m now in closed custody with no running sink water, no sheets and barely receiving cold water to drink.”
TDCJ officials doubt the claim, however. But they also cannot provide the video for proof.
“An offender would never have any access to any security video,” said Desel. “It is also not releasable due to security concerns. Offender discipline and custody levels are also not releasable.”