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TDCJ puts prisoners back on the road for transport

Posted at 11:20 PM, Jun 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-14 00:20:00-04

After the Texas Department of Criminal Justice suspended most inmate transportation, following escaped inmate Gonzalo Lopez’s death, prisoner bus trips have resumed.

It’s been less than two weeks since the Collins family of Tomball were found murdered on their family’s Centerville ranch property, suspected to have been killed by escaped inmate Gonzalo Lopez, who later died by police gunfire.

The Monday following the murders, TDCJ suspended all non-emergency transportation of inmates. This Monday, one week later, the buses are now back on the roads.

“Well, I think they made some good decisions," said Texas state senator John Whitmire, chair of the senate criminal justice committee.

Whitmire had originally urged TDCJ to stop prisoner transports after Lopez commandeered and crashed a prison transport bus in Centerville last month.

"I’m sorry it took a tragedy to come up with revisions, but I do believe the measure of measure of having three armed correction officers on every bus is a much-desired improvement,” he said.

In addition to three officers aboard each bus, several stipulations for transportation now include items such as enhanced search procedures, the installation of new surveillance equipment, enhanced prison medical care, and the isolation of high-risk inmates.

Dr. Mitchel Roth, a criminal justice professor with Sam Houston State University, has studied prison escapes that have occurred throughout American history. He offered his speculation as to why TDCJ wasn't already practicing these transportation standards.

“Number one, they had certain measures in place, but we don’t know how much they follow those to begin with," he said. "For instance, searching the inmates when they get on the prison van, having two officers on board... we don’t even know for sure if they had a camera."

Both Whitmire and Roth said they are pleased with the changes TDCJ announced. Roth pointed out that prisoner escapes, even high profile ones, have happened across the nation.

“The thing is that most changes in the prison system take place after events like this," Roth said. "When Martin Gurule escaped from death row, they stopped having death row inmates work in the general population.”

A separate update in the case emerged Monday, as Leon County Justice of the Peace Jack Keeling released a few more details about the Collins family murders.

This version of the coroner’s report notes that the victims - grandfather Mark Collins and grandsons Carson, Waylon, Bryson, and Hudson Collins - were all fully dressed, each wearing boots and jeans. Also noted is the time of arrival for police as 5:39 p.m., on Thursday, June 2.