Taking a public relations hit never is easy. But the Texas Department of Criminal Justice could take a lesson from Randall County Sheriff Joel Richardson on how to handle a highly public embarrassment.
Joshua Barnes is on the lam after escaping this week from a prison hospital in Galveston. It’s the third time he’s wiggled free from authorities’ grasp; the first two times occurred in Potter County. You’d think the state would keep an extra careful eye on this guy, given his history of escape. Barnes is serving time in TDCJ on a variety of felony convictions.
Back to Richardson.
Mark Edward Hanson escaped in late 2005 from the Randall County jail. He pried, pounded and kicked his way out of a cell, got to the roof of the jail, tossed a blanket over a barbed-wire fence and climbed over the fence; he hitched a ride into Amarillo with a couple of guys. Police arrested the guy a few hours later.
What was Richardson’s response? He took the blame fully. The sheriff said it was no one’s fault but his own. He manned up. Richardson said the inmate should have been put in a hardened cell — with solid cement walls and ceiling. He already had a violent criminal record and had attacked two corrections officers already. “If anyone is to blame, it’s me,” Richardson said at the time.
I’m not hearing that kind of accountability — so far — from TDCJ in connection with Barnes’ latest escape.
And, yes, this story has gone national. A lot of Americans are asking: How did this happen — again?