Polygamous sect leader and convicted child rapist Warren Jeffs will be housed in a solitary cell for his own protection, Texas prison officials said Tuesday.
Jeffs, 55, was sentenced to life in prison two weeks ago after a jury found him guilty of sexually assaulting two girls, ages 12 and 15, whom he took as polygamous wives. Because of the large amount of media coverage of his case, officials decided to place him in a solitary cell at the Powledge Unit in Palestine, Texas, said prison spokesman Jason Clark.
Jeffs will be in his cell for 22 hours a day, and allowed out for recreation and a shower.
"It was really to be more proactive," rather than a response to a specific threat or any violence, Clark said. "His case did garner media attention, his crimes were against children."
Jeffs has been behind bars since 2006 in Utah and Arizona, but has continued to control the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints via phone. That control was especially apparent after he was extradited to Texas late last year, when he began excommunicating dozens of men, including top leaders, from his jail cell while awaiting trial.
His phone contact will be limited at the Powledge Unit. Phone calls are limited to 15 minutes each, for a total of 240 minutes a month, Clark said. Calls are restricted to people on a 10-person visitation list.
Jeffs was not placed in solitary confinement, which is a punishment for inmates. Inmates with "credible threats" against them are placed in solo protective custody, and, unlike someone in solitary, those in protective custody can have visitors and use the phone, Clark said.
Jeffs' visitors also have to come from the 10-person list. Visits are allowed on weekends, and inmates are typically allowed one visit a weekend for a two-hour period with two adults.
Jeffs is allowed to have contact visits, which are those not separated by a glass wall, but not with children under 17. He can see his own children, but only with a signed affidavit saying he is the child's legal guardian and that the child is not a victim of his crimes. (Neither girl Jeffs was convicted of assaulting was his biological child.) Jeffs is also allowed attorney visits separate from his approved visitor list. He is allowed books and legal materials.
Palestine is in southeast Texas, about a six-hour drive from his follower's Yearning for Zion Ranch in remote Eldorado, Texas.
Immediately after his sentencing on Aug. 9, Jeffs was taken to the Byrd Unit prison in Huntsville, Texas. He was moved to the Powledge Unit Tuesday morning. With just over 1,000 inmates, the Powledge Unit is one of the smaller facilities in the Texas prison system, but has a higher number of single-confinement cells.
Only a small portion of Texas inmates are similarly housed. A total of 85 inmates are in solitary protective custody in Texas, out of about 156,000 total inmates statewide, Clark said. Jeffs' prison assignment will be reviewed every six months by a state committee.
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