Fighting Sanitary Conditions, Grooming Court Victory in Texas
In the William P. Clements Prison unit in Amarillo, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) is now selling us 50 sheets of low quality paper on commissary for $1.80. Here in the extended cell block, High Security A.K.A. Segregation, we have showers in our cells. They only come on 15 minutes per day. We are only issued a clean towel 3 times per week: Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. So we go Saturday, Sunday and Monday on the same towel.
Here's the problem. Once you are done with your shower the spray covers at least 1/3 of your cell. If you use this towel to dry all this grey water up you no longer have a towel suitable to dry your body off the next day after a shower. If we get caught with a second towel for use in this purpose we receive a disciplinary case for extra necessities. I personally grieved this issue and it was denied because policy states we're only allowed one towel at a time. This is a sanitary issue.
These are just some of the injustices we see here in the Texas department of Criminal Justice. On another level though Texas inmates just won a small victory when the federal courts ruled TDCJ was violating our religious rights by making prisoners of certain faiths shave or cut their hair, like Rastafarians, Native Americans, Muslims, Amish, and Jews. We are still waiting for the change in grooming policy but we won.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Compared to some of the brutality, long-term isolation, and medical neglect, lack of a clean towel may seem like a minor issue facing Amerikan prisoners. But it is these minor issues that really illustrate the irrationality of the prisons in this country. Why would it be a disciplinary case for a prisoner to have a second towel to keep his cell clean? How could this good hygiene practice be dangerous or otherwise problematic? Prisons withold small "privileges" like this as an arbitrary form of punishment. There is no educational or reform purpose. There is just a long list of such actions adding up to unsanitary, disrespectful, unstimulating, and counter productive living conditions (when prisoners aren't being beaten, tortured, starved, or otherwise physically abused).
Prisoners will come together to fight for these minor issues, as we see with this court victory for religious expression with haircuts in Texas. It is our job as revolutionaries to take these small battles and use them as educational opportunities to show others how these issues fit into the broader system of imperialism where prisons are used as a tool of social control.