Jim Dunnam may have broken the rules surrounding the prison made goods law by purchasing a rocking chair, a constitutional chair, spurs, and a brass-plated gavel after his tenure as State Representative was completed.
According to an open records request to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, these purchases were all made after his term expired on January 11th, 2011, with the last purchase occurring May 17, 2011. Dunnam, a prominent Democratic State Representative, was defeated in the 2010 election by Marva Beck.
The prison-made goods act was passed in 1963 allowing government entities to buy various goods, including furniture, from prison inmates in this manufacturing program. Legislators were eventually added to the list of those entitled to purchase prison-made goods.
However, former legislators aren’t allowed to buy prison-made goods.
Patricia Kilday Hart alerted us to the practice of prison-made furniture last week, in a hit piece on Debbie Riddle. The conservative State Representative was singled out for this little known practice of prison made furniture buying. Riddle used some of the furniture as a giveaway for donations, another common practice. We noted that Hart tried to make a story out of a non-story, while missing the real story: the practice of prison made goods unavailable to the private citizens who pay for them.
AgendaWise is engaged in correspondence with Texas Correctional Industries in order to confirm the policies in place for purchasing prison made furniture.
The” faq” section on the TCI website includes a question on purchase eligibility requirements. It says:
City, county, state and federal agencies, public schools, public and private institutions of higher education, public hospitals and political subdivisions are eligible to buy from TCI. Ineligible entitles include, but are not limited to, non-profit corporations, private schools, private hospitals, private enterprise and individuals.
This answer appears incomplete since it does not include legislators as eligible purchasers.
AgendaWise will keep tracking this, including how items are priced, and report our findings.