Denied Out-of-Cell Rec and Adequate Food at Hughes Unit

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[Abuse] [Hughes Unit] [Texas]

Denied Out-of-Cell Rec and Adequate Food at Hughes Unit

I am writing regarding an issue that affects my friend who is imprisoned at the TDCJ Unit A.D. Hughes in Gatesville, Texas. Prison Administrators at this unit are continually denying the inmates and convicts in Administrative Segregation (AdSeg) any amount of time out of their cells to exercise or shower as well as continually providing the inmates and convicts with nutritionally inadequate meals thus violating State and Federal Law. These issues are causing damage to their mental and physical health in addition to indirectly creating a risk to public safety.

My friend is in AdSeg where the inmates and convicts are already confined for 23 hours each day in a cell the size of a small closet which was designed to create maximum isolation from human contact. Their only break from this type of confinement is one hour out-of-cell exercise the State and Federal Courts ordered TDCJ to provide during incarceration (Ruiz v. Estelle, 679 F.2d 1115 1151-52 (5th Cir., 1982)). An hour of out-of-cell exercise or activity was ordered each and every single day because of the risk to the mental and physical health of all inmates and convicts who are subjected to uninterrupted confinement in a tiny four-wall cell. This serious issue is well established and recognized.

However, at the Hughes Unit prison, officials are habitually and continually disregarding the established laws. For instance, in the four and a half month period from April 2018 through August 2018, there was no out-of-cell exercise provided to inmates and convicts in AdSeg on 156 of those days. This isn't a new development or the result of an emergency situation. Over the last several years, out-of-cell exercise has been canceled at a similar rate on this unit. Administrators at the A.D. Hughes Unit have not been consistently complying with State of Federal Laws—at best they are complying half the time.

To make matters worse, on about half of that time, administrators are providing inmates and convicts in AdSeg meals that are calorically and nutritionally inadequate which is also a violation of State and Federal Law. Approximately one fourth of all meals served consist of just two sandwiches and nothing more. The first sandwich has only a single slice of processed lunch-meat, soy patty or other similar meat-type product. The second sandwich has about a spoonful of peanut butter. The two sandwiches combined contain about 500 calories. There are never any fruits of vegetables or any other food required for a balanced diet made available to the inmates in AdSeg. It is impossible for these two sandwiches that are provided every now and then to maintain a person's health. Sometimes the convicts at the Hughes Unit could be forced to eat nothing but these sandwiches for months at a time, but only if there was a disciplinary lock-down and we are to be on a 2,500 calories daily dIet.

They got out-of-cell time only 95 times. There is no valid reason for the issues to be happening on a regular basis. Inmates and convicts are given the excuse that there is a lack of staff to provide out-of-cell exercise or to serve proper meals when they question these issues. While this may have been true in some instances, there are many days where exercise was denied while there was adequate staffing on the unit. The staff are choosing to cancel out-of-cell exercise because they don't feel like performing their daily work-time duties. When staff wants a day off they just ask the ranking officer in charge to declare a staff shortage and then they sit around on the unit during their shift doing nothing but collecting payment for a job they aren't performing—money provided by taxpayers. No one is holding TDCJ-CID unit administrators, or these staff members, accountable for their behavior mainly because it takes place all the way down the line from the executive director down to the CO II.

Even when there is a genuine staff shortage that fact doesn't absolve prison administrators of the responsibility of doing whatever is necessary to fully and adequately staff the prisons. Indeed the very essence of their duty is to create and maintain prisons that comply with all relevant laws. The chronic staff shortage is due in part to halfhearted measures taken to hire new employees: when new employees are hired they are often fired on trivial pretexts in order to keep staffing levels artificially low to save money on the prison budget.

It is always important to remember that these inmates and convicts will eventually be paroled or serve their sentences and be released back into society. There is a growing awareness that these types segregation units are incubators of mental illness and further criminality; even when run properly, which they never have been and never will be. Prison administrators' disregard for the inmates and convicts' rights and well being here at the Hughes Unit is only making the problems worse, but only because they wear a different color uniform than us that puts them as bias against us from jump street. After mistreating and antagonizing the convicts for years, TDCJ-CID administrators will just release them back into society, leaving an unsuspecting public to deal with the resulting fallout. Prison administrators at the Hughes Unit are putting us all at risk with this type of unlawful behavior.

Please investigate this matter and see to it that prison officials at the Hughes Unit provide the AdSeg inmates and convicts with a minimum of an hour of out-of-cell recreation every single day as well as showers on a daily basis and nutritious meals as ordered by State and Federal Law.