Prison System: Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division- Prisons, Region III
Status: Active, opened in 1993; ACA accredited since 2007
Offender Gender: Male
Security Level: Mental Health
Distinguishing Feature: Jester IV unit is one of the state’s mental health facilities. Inmates are generally transferred to the facility for short term mental health treatment and stabilization and then returned back to their normal institution. However, some inmates are placed at Jester IV for long-term treatment.
Number of Inmates: 550
Employees: 381 total employees; 301 security
While Jester IV is located on the Jester State Prison Farm property with three other prisons, the inmates at Jester IV do not participate in the agricultural production that is the hallmark of the prison farm. Instead, Jester IV is a mental health facility, which provides both short-term stabilization mental health care and long-term severe mental health care for some of the most chronically mentally ill inmates in the Texas Department of Corrections. It can house inmates from any security level, because the degree of mental illness and the inmate’s danger to self and others post-incarceration is what determines whether an inmate will be transferred to Jester IV for short or long-term treatment. However, while it is not considered a maximum security unit, looking at the guard to prisoner ratio, it is clear that inmates at the facility have greater supervision than at almost any other facility in the state.
Jester IV is home to some of the most dangerous and violent criminals in the entire Texas Department of Criminal Justice including those men on death row in Texas who are deemed too mentally ill to be at the Polunsky Unit, which houses the rest of Texas’s death row inmates.
Because the role of the Jester IV Unit is to stabilize severely mentally ill inmates, the living conditions at the prison are notably better and more peaceful than at other high-security prisons throughout Texas. While the security is higher than it would be at private mental health facilities, the facility itself looks more like a healthcare facility than a stereotypical prison. First, Jester IV is located on a prison farm, but within a suburban residential area near homes, schools, and a shopping center. Next, while the facility does look like a prison facility from the outside, it has wide hallways, skylights, and floor-to-ceiling windows, giving it a much airier feel than most prisons.
Inmates in most Texas prisons are expected to do some type of work, however Jester IV is an exception. The severity of the mental illnesses suffered by the prisoners make meaningful work an unrealistic goal. Instead, the inmates receive mental health treatment, including medication, which can help stabilize them. Once stabilized, most inmates are returned to their original facilities. However, the living conditions at these facilities, where many of the mentally ill inmates live in administrative segregation conditions because of difficulty complying with prison rules and regulations, are not conducive to mental health or stability in a vulnerable population, which means that inmates may repeatedly move between Jester IV for stabilization and their “home” prison for punishment throughout the period of incarceration.
Inmates at the Jester IV have access to a limited amount of prison programming. They can receive special education services, life skills, religious/faith based studies and activities, adult education programming, chaplaincy services, the GO KIDS initiative, and food service preparation training through Alvin Community College’s vocational training program. While their access to prison programming is limited, they do have access to comprehensive, individualized mental health treatment services.
Although Jester IV is on a prison farm that produces both cash and food crops, raises animals for food, and maintains service animals used by the Texas Department of Corrections, the inmates at Jester IV are not involved in the production at the Jester State Prison Farm.
Jester IV’s location in a growing residential area was considered controversial at the time, with at least one lawmaker believing it was a serious error. However, there have been no serious incidents at the prison that have put the surrounding community at risk.
Because the Jester IV Unit houses some of the most dangerous and violent criminals in the Texas prison system, it has housed some very notorious inmates. Andre Thomas is one such inmate. Thomas stabbed his estranged wife, their son, and her daughter, using a different knife on each of them to avoid cross-contamination, removed their hearts, attempted to stab himself in the heart, and then called his in-laws to ask for help. He turned himself into the police. Five days after his arrest, he removed one of his eyeballs with his own hands. Although diagnosed with schizophrenia, he was deemed fit to stand trial and sentenced to death. When placed on death row at the Polunsky Unit, Thomas attempted to kill himself and then removed his other eye and ate it. Although he is at Jester IV for treatment of his mental illness, he is still scheduled to be executed.
Purchase Commissary Items for an Inmate Friends and family can purchase up to $60 in commissary items every quarter for offenders through this program. They can choose from up to 100 of the top selling items in the commissary, and the on-line amount purchased does not reduce an offender’s ability to spend money from their inmate trust fund accounts on commissary items.
Year Built or Opened: 1993 Warden or Supervisor: Alphonso James, Jr. Daily Inmate Count: 550 Security Level(s): Mental Health
Inmate Name and Inmate ID
Jester Unit IV (J4)- Texas State Prison
4 Jester Road
Richmond, TX 77406
Fax Number: 281-277-3033
4 Jester Rd
Richmond, TX 77406, USA