Capt. William Wheat of the TDCJ Beto Academy.
Wheat has been a student of the agency and the corrections field throughout his 10 year career with TDCJ, first on the Robertson Unit in Abilene and most recently as Captain at the Beto Academy in Region II in Palestine. In the fall, he will attend Sam Houston State University for the Master of Science in Criminal Justice Leadership and Management program on a scholarship to develop the research needed to improve safety for the public and to rehabilitate offenders before their release.
“It does mean a lot to me to get a scholarship from the people I work for,” said Wheat. “Although I had other opportunities, this is the route I wanted. I am a traditionalist. I wanted to go to Sam Houston because the offenders built the building and Dr. George J. Beto was one of its founders. He created the Windham School District. There is a close relationship between the College and TDCJ. There is a lot of history here.”
Capt. Angela Chevalier of the TDCJ Ramsey Academy. Wheat and Capt. Angela Chevalier of the Ramsey Academy in Region III in Rosharon were selected for the 2014 TDCJ/Correctional Management Institute of Texas scholarship for the intensive weekend program designed for working professionals in the field. Chevalier hopes to use the degree to teach the next generation of correctional leaders after her retirement.
Chevalier said she always wanted to work in the criminal justice field and, after graduating from Sam Houston State University with her undergraduate degree, she chose a career in corrections. She wanted to go back for a Master’s degree, but her schedule was too erratic. With a regular schedule at the training academy and funding, she can now pursue her dream.
“If it were not for the scholarship, I could not continue my education,” Chevalier said. “After completing my degree, I plan on teaching criminal justice at a College or University. The one thing that I want to impart is that our field will never go away and that there will always have to be leaders to show what lies ahead. We are the people who keep the world safe. There will always be a need for criminal justice and corrections professionals.”
An academy class on proper handcuffing techniques. Chevalier has worked her way up through the ranks at TDCJ, beginning at the Wynne Unit in Huntsville as a correctional officer supervising one to several hundred inmates. She began her supervisory career at the Terrell Unit in Rosharon and later served at the Darrington Unit in Rosharon and the Connally in Kenedy, where she rose to the rank of Captain.
At the Region III training academy, she oversees the training of new correction officers as well as continuing and specialty training opportunities for officers and staff at 20 correctional facilities in the region. All employees are required to take training annually.
“There are a lot of moving parts,” she said. “Every single person in the region, whether secure or non-secure staff, come to this academy at least once a year.”
After leaving the U.S. Marine Corps, Wheat began working at the Robertson Unit, a maximum security facility. He was promoted as the Unit Safe Prisons Program Coordinator, where he investigated all cases of sexual assault. As a Lieutenant, he supervised both day and night shift on the unit.
Cadets spend hours in the Academy
classroom receiving core curriculum instruction. Ten months ago, he was assigned to the Region II training academy, where 5,000 employees from seven facilities in the area pass through his doors annually. All new correctional officers take 216 hours of training, while existing employees are required to take a 40 hour refresher course. He also offers specialty courses, including munitions, firearm and defensive tactics for officers and correctional awareness for non-custodial staff.
“It’s a challenge,” said Wheat. “The training we use, from my perspective, keeps us on the straight and narrow. If you want to change things systematically, the most effective way to do that is through training. We have a responsibility to the public for what we do. The success of the job we do will be obvious when these offenders return to society and become a part of our neighborhoods and community.”
Wheat is very interested in the history of the TDCJ and has learned a lot about the state’s system. He knows to make changes it is important to get an education and to back up proposals with research.
“We are a bellwether for corrections in the U.S,” Wheat said. “I would like to be a part of our continued leadership in this field.”