Drill Instructors Fired From Prison Boot Camp In Wake Of Abuse Charges
HOUSTON (AP) _ Five sheriff’s deputies were fired after they were indicted for allegedly abusing inmates at a boot camp, beating them and pitting the inmates against each other for sport.
The Harris County grand jury on Tuesday exonerated two other deputies.
The five who were indicted were accused of violating civil rights in allegedly choking and beating inmates with their fists, feet and broomsticks, prosecutor Don Smyth said.
The accused men, all drill instructors, also allegedly ordered inmates to fight each other, staged a ″bull-in-the-ring″ game, where whole platoons of inmates were pitted against each other in a wrestling match, and forced inmates to run a gantlet of rows of belt-swinging inmates.
″It was put on for the enjoyment of the drill instructors - sort of like the Romans throwing Christians to the lions,″ Smyth said.
Chief Deputy Sheriff Tommy Thomas said state law required the deputies to be fired after their indictments. They could be rehired, however, depending on the outcome of their cases.
The five were Darryl Coleman, Benny Galindez, Alfonso Giraldo, W.D. Jones and Joe Anthony Saenz. Clint Greenwood, Giraldo’s attorney, said all five deputies denied the charges.
″This is just like a lightning bolt out of the blue. They’re surprised and dumbfounded that they were singled out for doing the job that they were supposed to do,″ Greenwood said.
Court dates had not yet been set for the deputies, Greenwood said.
The year-old camp near Humble, which has a capacity of 350, is an alternative to prison for first-time felony offenders, men and women, ages 17 to 26. The inmates are subjected to a military-style regimen for 90 days then released to normal probation.
Accepted discipline at the camp includes calisthenics, push-ups, and unpleasant work assignments.
The indictments capped an investigation of the camp that began in March and heard testimony from 27 boot camp inmates. None complained about having to drill, exercise or take part in camp ceremonies, Smyth said.
″It was the physical abuse, not the physical training,″ he said. ″It was what they called ’the laying on of hands.‴
Smyth said treatment of camp inmates has apparently improved since the grand jury probe began. ″From what I’ve hard from probationers, the situation has improved markedly,″ he said. ″It’s as different as day and night.″
Of the more than 800 people sent to the camp, 92 percent are serving their probations with no trouble, Probation Department head Larance Coleman said.