TDCJ Stiles Unit Ignoring Respite Areas, Heat & Respiratory Illness Rules

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[Abuse] [Stiles Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 75]
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TDCJ Stiles Unit Ignoring Respite Areas, Heat & Respiratory Illness Rules

Dear MIM,

I’m writing this letter on behalf of all Texas prison inmates who have been denied access to respite areas here at the Mark W. Stiles Unit or anywhere within TDCJ-CID agency state wide.

In United States District Court, Southern District of Texas in the Houston Division, Keith Cole et al. v. Brad Livington, TDCJ Director, et al.; Civil Action No. 4:14-CV-1698, a class action lawsuit, at page 769 it states:

Respite Training and Education

All inmates, both those assigned and not assigned jobs, will be trained on the importance of respite and how to access respite. Training will include:

  • Respite means cooling off for a period of time in an air conditioned place;
  • Inmates are allowed to access respite 24/7;
  • The education wing is now a dedicated respite area;
  • Inmates do not need to be sick, injured, or feeling bad to access respite, rather they may do so to cool down whenever they wish;
  • To access respite, inmates can make the request for asking correctional officers if there are problems ask to talk to a ranking correctional officer;
  • Impress that no one will be retaliated against for asking for respite, and;
  • Education about why respite is important to protect ones health. The training will follow a script and there will be a time for questions from the inmates. A training circular will be distributed that mirrors the respite notice. There will be a sign-in sheet for inmates to confirm training and receipt of the circular.

Also, a new poster has been developed and will further emphasize these same points. The poster will be placed in common areas accessible to inmates, it clearly states that an inmate may request access to respite areas 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, not being required to be feeling ill. It further states that if an inmate is feeling ill, he should alert staff so that medical assistance can be obtained. The poster also gives the inmates a description of the expectations regarding their behavior in respite, stating that inmates:

  • Regular access respite any time during the day or night, do not need to be sick, injured, or feeling bad to access respite, rather they may do so to cool down when ever they wish;
  • Should use respite regularly because it helps the body thermoregulate;
  • Should be aware that heat is dangerous and heat illness can occur suddenly when temperatures are high;
  • Should ask staff for medical staff attention if they actually feel ill due to heat;
  • May talk quietly in respite;
  • May bring a cooling towel;
  • Will be provided a chair, and must remain seated;
  • May not engage in horseplay or arguing;
  • May not create disturbances;
  • May not save chairs for other inmates, and;
  • Must be properly dressed (pants and shirts).

The TDCJ’s Respite Area policy is not being honored here at the Mark W. Stiles Unit even though there are designated areas such as:

  • Medical Department waiting cage,
  • Offenders General Library, Windham School District Department
  • Law Library Department
  • Education Department
  • Chapel

Note: The Law Library Department, Education Department and the chapel will only be used as a respite area after normal hours at other areas are over.

The current warden has modified or ignored all of these rules. The warden has ordered that all inmates at the Mark W. Stiles Unit must get a pass to have access to respite area and each pass per inmate is only good for 30 minutes. When 30 minutes expires such inmate must return back to their living area buildings to obtain another pass.

These wardens are playing physicians in practicing medicine without a license in the way that they are violating this policy. It don’t have to be hot for another human being in the Texas prison system to be affected by heat related symptoms. There are many drugs that lower heat tolerance, ranging from anti-convulsants to beta blockers. These drugs may disrupt the body’s ability to sweat or thermoregulate, make the body more sensitive to sunlight, or otherwise make people more susceptible to heat illness, and need more respite than thirty minutes broken up by having to go get another pass every time.

There are also reports identifying offenders with heat and/or sunlight sensitivity restrictions, and unit courtroom staff will provide unit security staff with this Medical Heat Restriction List, which identifies offenders who have a heat restriction and is supposed to require security staff to perform wellness checks, in accordance with Administrative Directive 10.64, ‘Extreme Temperature Conditions in the TDCJ.’

Here at the most corrupt unit within TDCJ, the Mark W. Stiles Unit, the respite area and heat related symptoms policies are not followed. In the 11 building restrictive housing area where there is no ventilation system functioning nor any open windows, offenders can not get a cool down shower or access to the respite area, only because the Unit is short handed in staff and all the cool down showers and respite areas are set aside for general population offenders and not those in restrictive housing.

There are offenders in the restrictive housing area that have asthma, use a CPAP machine, or have other respiratory needs/illnesses. Staff will use their chemical agent on an offender which will effect all innocent bystanders, and won’t take anyone to medical even if they do recognize or notice breathing issues owing to the use of the chemical agent. Offenders have to get the attention of the authorities some other way, and once an offender is at the medical department and tells the nurses or other medical providers what’s going on, we can only get medicines or treatment that the security staff approve of, not what we might actually need.

So basically us offenders with heat sensitivity or any respiratory issues are walking dead at the Mark W. Stiles Unit. Please help us investigate and organize against this corrupt TDCJ unit, we in the Texas prison system don’t want to die.

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