You might recognize the name Warren Jeffs as the infamous polygamist leader who was sentenced to life in prison in 2011 after being convicted of sexually assaulting two "child brides" who were part of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), which Jeffs is the leader of. But it's been seven years since Jeffs' sentencing, and given that A&E will debut the documentary special Warren Jeffs: Prophet of Evil this week, it's worth asking: Where is Warren Jeffs in 2018?
According to a Newsweek article from November, Jeffs somehow continues to run the FLDS from prison. CNN also reported in 2016 that he had been orchestrating a shake-up of the church through prison visits by some of his wives — the FLDS, which began in the 1930s after a group of fundamentalists were excommunicated from the Mormon church, believes in polygamy and is not affiliated with the Mormon church; Jeffs has upwards of 70 wives. The shake-up included abolishing certain aspects of the church, naming new "bishops," and barring some members from communicating with the rest of the group. Jeffs also required that all members be re-interviewed, re-baptized and re-confirmed after a leadership change. It's clear that though he's not getting out of jail anytime soon, the group still exists and apparently acknowledges his leadership.
In another 2016 article from the Associated Press featured on CBS News, it was reported that Jeffs has always had issues with inappropriately corresponding with the outside world, according to prison rules. He was banned temporarily from using prison phones in 2012, the article states, after authorities found that the caller on the other end had the call on speaker phone. He also has had mail blocked because the letters were found to contain coded messages, and the wives who visit him have, on multiple occasions, been found attempting to smuggle recording devices through prison security, the AP reports. Texas prisons director William Stephens told the AP in the same article that operating a business from a penitentiary is not allowed, so Jeffs' correspondence is heavily scrutinized.
Despite the fact that he's technically not allowed to have a hand in operations from prison, Jeffs' influence is apparently still felt and he is still considered the leader of the FLDS, according to multiple recent reports. And though many of the reported 10,000 followers left the church after he went to prison, those who left the FLDS weren't immune to harassment for supporting a man who evaded authorities and appeared on the FBI's most-wanted list for several counts of sexually assaulting minors. According to a 2016 Rolling Stone article, former FLDS members claimed to have been driven off the road, found dead animals left on their porches, and one victim's advocate even had her office windows shot out.
Jeffs' life sentence hasn't yet prevented Jeffs from continuing to influence countless people who remain in his grasp. "This is a community that has been controlled by a madman now sitting in a jail in Texas," Sam Brower, a private investigator who worked on the Jeffs case, told Rolling Stone. "That's the really scary thing about this. This guy is crazy. The more power Warren Jeffs loses, the more desperate he becomes." With this A&E documentary, more light will likely be shed on the horrors his victims endured, and the struggles that continue to face those born into the FLDS.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.