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By Benson Varghese

Published on: July 10th, 2020 at 2:07 AM
Last Updated: July 29th, 2020 at 2:36 PM

Texas is home to the largest prison system in the nation. Not surprisingly, jail and prison officials recover hundreds of makeshift weapons from inmates each year. Most are crudely made, fashioned from toothbrushes, plastic forks, bed springs and other material found within the walls of a correctional facility. Nevertheless, it’s a crime for inmates to have any kind of deadly weapon in a penal institution in Texas. Here’s a look at the law, possible punishments, and some examples of common items that can be used to fashion homemade weapons or “shanks.”

What is Texas Law on Deadly Weapons in Prisons and Jails?

Under Section 46.10 of the Texas Penal Code, an individual commits the offense of deadly weapon in a penal institution if, while confined in a penal institution, he or she intentionally, knowingly or recklessly:

  • Carries on or about his person a deadly weapon; or
  • Possesses or conceals a deadly weapon in the penal institution

What Constitutes a Penal Institution in Texas?

“Penal institution” means a place designated by law for confinement or individuals arrested for, charged with, or convicted of an offense. This includes jails, prisons or halfway houses.

What Constitutes a “Deadly Weapon” in Texas?

Deadly weapon means a firearm or anything manifestly designed, made or adapted for the purpose of inflicting death or serious bodily injury; or

Anything that in the manner of its use or intended use is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury.

What is the Punishment for Deadly Weapon in a Penal Institution in Texas?

Possessing or concealing a deadly weapon in a penal institution is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years behind bars and up to a $10,000 fine.

Are there Any Defense to Deadly Weapon in a Penal Institution in Texas?

Yes, if the individual was engaged in conduct authorized by an employee of the penal institution, they would not be in violation of the law.

What are Some Examples of Makeshift Weapons or Shanks?

When it comes to fashioning weapons, inmates get creative. Some of the most interesting weapons ever recovered from Texas prisons are on display at the Texas Prison Museum in Huntsville. Here are some examples of how everyday items are used as weapons in prison.

  • Toothbrushes, combs, plastic forks, bedsprings: These everyday items can be sharpened or made into a point and used as makeshift knives, which are commonly referred to as “shanks” or “shivs.”
  • Socks: Inmates fill socks with hard objects and use them as weapons.
  • Sewing thread, dental floss: Long string can be used to choke someone or as an escape tool.
  • Toothpaste tubes: Inmates sometimes fill toothpaste tubes with feces and urine and use it to slime passing guards or inmates.

Contact Us

If your loved one is facing charges for having a deadly weapon in jail or prison, it’s imperative that you contact an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible. Obviously, this charge can make their time behind bars significantly worse. Our team of attorneys have handled every type of case in Texas, ranging from misdemeanors to capital murder. Call today for a complimentary strategy session with a member of our team.