Four Texas prison guards have been fired and two others resigned over selfies accompanied by insensitive comments posted on social media, a Texas Department of Criminal Justice official said Wednesday.
The Houston Chronicle reported that the guards were taking part in a #FeelingCute trend in which uniformed workers post selfies and describe what they'll do during their shifts. Some off-color comments prompted complaints from inmates' relatives.
Department spokesman Jeremy Desel confirmed to The Associated Press that the dismissals and resignations are related to the postings but didn't provide details.
In one post that appeared under the FeelingCute hashtag earlier this month, a woman wearing a Texas prison uniform said: "Feeling cute, might just gas some inmates today, IDK." IDK stands for "I don't know."
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It's unclear if the woman featured in the selfie is among those fired or who resigned, or even if the woman in the photo is the person who posted the comment. The person who posted the selfie didn't respond to the Chronicle's request for comment.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice executive director Bryan Collier said on Facebook that the agency reviewed the posting of "inappropriate photographs and comments on social media."
"These officers in no way represent the thousands of TDCJ employees who go to work every day taking public safety seriously in all ways," Collier said.
Michele Deitch, an attorney and criminal justice expert who teaches at University of Texas-Austin's LBJ School of Public Affairs, said she is heartened by the department's swift action but that the posts raise questions about why some staff believe such behavior might be acceptable.
"This is just one more example of why we need independent oversight to look at cultural issues within the facilities as well as structural issues and policy matters that can affect the treatment of prisoners," Deitch said.
Many of the #FeelingCute postings that began to appear in early April are inoffensive, but municipal and other workers in Texas and elsewhere have received criticism for ones that make light of victimizing people.
Police in the Texas Gulf Coast town of Aransas Pass joked about pulling over motorists, the newspaper reported, and a Georgia water worker posted about cutting off service to customers.