Prisoners Report on Conditions in

Texas Prisons

Got a keyboard? Help type articles, letters and study group discussions from prisoners. help out is a media institution run by the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons. Here we collect and publicize reports of conditions behind the bars in U.$. prisons. Information about these incidents rarely makes it out of the prison, and when it does it is extremely rare that the reports are taken seriously and published. This historical record is important for documenting patterns of abuse, and also for informing people on the streets about what goes on behind the bars.

We hope this information will inspire people to take action and join the fight against the criminal injustice system. While we may not be able to immediately impact this particular instance of abuse, we can work to fundamentally change the system that permits and perpetuates it. The criminal injustice system is intimately tied up with imperialism, and serves as a tool of social control on the homeland, particularly targeting oppressed nations.

[Legal] [Abuse] [Smith County Jail] [Texas]

Twilight Zone of Legal System

I am currently incarcerated in Smith County Texas. I have been here for over 4 months and it appears I will be here at least another 3 or 4 months just waiting to go to trial. They have me on a $250,000 for an alleged theft charge under 30k. I am no stranger to the legal system in Texas but this county has so far violated almost every right I have. I have had to fire my attorney who is apparently a contract attorney for the court and only does court appointed cases. That said I am attempting to wing this pro se but they have denied me everything needed to do so such as a law library, discovery, or anything else needed to mount a defense. I just filed a federal law suit against the judge, DA and the court appointed attorney or should I say I just tried. I am pretty sure they are all going to have absolute immunity. Anyway, all that said only time will tell.

I am a 44 year old white man. The last time I was in any serious legal trouble was in 1998 when I did 18 months in a federal system and about 6 months in state jail. I am sure a lot has changed in our legal system since then so I am not sure if this county is playing with peoples rights and lives or the system is just rigged and there is nothing anyone can do until after you have been convicted. I feel like I am in the twilight zone here.

Anyway a guy came in on a bench warrant and had a cop of Under Lock & Key. Very interesting to say the least. I would very much like to read more of them so if you could please send me your newsletter and any other info you have that may provide some insight into the alternate world I find myself in.

[Organizing] [Allred Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 64]

The Power to Make a Difference

July 2018 — Hey guys n gals. Well good and bad news.

First the good. I successfully organized my first demonstration, on Father's Day. We are in G-4 custody (20 hr lockdown - 2 hr dayroom and 2 hr rec). The staff always steals our rec with the excuse of "short of staff." So I gathered 6 other prisoners and stated that we would like to speak to Rank (i.e. Sergeant or Lieutenant). Soon all 48 prisoners were united. The officers did not know what to do. They called on the radio an ICS (inmate control squad) stating that we were refusing to rack up. Lo and behold, every officer on the unit arrived with bean bag guns, gas, Sergeants, Lieutenants, Captains, everybody. I guess they were NOT short of staff! LOL!

After that I approached the Captain very calmly and told him our grievances. The Warden showed up just in time to see. He said "tell them to rack up and we will see what the officer has to say." Seeing that the message had been delivered, I withdrew.

About 10 minutes later they came back and gave us rec.

Now the bad news. Since then the prisons are now targeting me and I am in Seg. SMH! It is okay. Because I see now that I do have the power to make a difference.

Thanks for the Texas Activist Pack, and thanks for the back issues. I also got ULK 62 yesterday and I will follow up soon. In Struggle!

MIM(Prisons) responds: The Texas Activist Pack was updated in August 2018, and you can get one by sending a donation of $3.50. It's a bit thicker now, so the cost to print and mail it has gone up since the last version. The Texas Pack has info about all the campaigns that United Struggle from Within comrades have developed for the state of Texas.

We also recently got our hands on the TDCJ Offender Grievace Operations Manual (rev 01/12). It is over 100 pages, so we are asking for a donation of $10 to cover the cost of printing and mailing it to you.

Let's pause to consider why aren't these materals already available to prisoners held by TDCJ? Why has the TDCJ been withholding the grievance manual from prisoners since at least November 2014? Who are the people held by TDCJ and how does it impact their lives and familes when they don't have access to this info?

Filing grievances and working on individual or reform campaigns do have their place. But, like with this comrade's successful efforts to get rec time, the greatest impact will come in the unity we build with our comrades, and the sense of our own power that we can tap into. Those are the successes that are going to stick with us for the long haul, and through various stages that our struggle goes through.

[Abuse] [Medical Care] [Estelle High Security Unit] [Texas]

Denied medical treatment and disability services in Texas

I fell June 2 Jamming my wrist in the wall I have one arm with no climbing and no reaching over my shoulder. Our lockers are overhead I have been denied a medical locker that sit on floor for 10 months. IDS has asked for me to be given one. After 23 days I was given an x ray June 25. Nothing done. I went to Galveston hospital in Aug 2018 on another matter. I showed the doctor my swollen wrist again. Nothing was done or said on sept 19, I was given a lay in for medical. I was issued a wrist splint and told I would be going to Galveston hospital. I filed a grievance only to have it returned the next day stating that my time to file had expired. I should have filed when the X-ray was done. I was reassigned to Estelle Unit last Nov to get a hearing aid. This hasn't happened.

I have been refused brace and limb - citing no medical indication for it (I have one arm). I have been delayed all services from ADS. I am also hearing impaired, talking book program, etc. My caseworker states I am trying to get her fired when I asked for these services after 10 months. I do want it fixed so she can't work for city, county, state, or government again.

[Gender] [Texas]

University Sexism Education Program Attacked

Enclosed is a clipping from the Austin American-Statesman (2018 May 3) I thought pertinent and might be of interest.

Not having first-hand knowledge of the University of Texas (UT) course "MasculinUT," I found it interesting that the reactionary philistines again attacked academia for addressing patriarchal oppression. As far as I'm concerned, conventional notions of masculinity are a societal conditioning of the psyche, ergo, much like a Black persyn ensnared in a eurocentric society, a mind fuck. So, yeah, maybe the yahoos are correct that traditional concepts of what masculinity entails (e.g., violence against wimmin) is a mental health issue, and as such, men need to be subjected to re-conditioning via communist transition. Maybe, like the bourgeoisie under socialism, men will be repressed. Maybe, hell!

MIM(Prisons) responds: The article enclosed, from the Statesman, talks about the UT masculinity education program, which is an awareness campaign formerly run by the University's Counseling and Mental Health Center. Conservatives attacked the program, claiming it treats masculinity as a mental health problem.

In response, the MasculinUT program was moved to Dean of Students, and, in a statement from its website, "the program's original steering committee was reconvened and expanded to provide recommendations and feedback to ensure that the program's mission is clearly defined and fully aligned with its original intent of reducing sexual assault and interpersonal violence."

We're with this comrade in thinking it might not be so bad to think about masculinity as a mental health issue. As long as we're clear that this and many other mental health issues are a product of the capitalist patriarchy. People aren't born being sexist idiots. They are trained to believe that wimmin don't know what they want, to see wimmin as objects, and to view maleness as a sign of superiority. People will need a lot of retraining to overcome a lifetime of patriarchal education.

We don't know what's involved in the UT program so we can't comment on it. But we can say that after the imperialist patriarchy is overthrown we'll have a long period of cultural revolution where we need to re-invent humyn culture and re-educate everyone to see all people as equal. This is about the patriarchy, but also about the oppression of all groups of people over other groups, across the strands of oppression of nation, class and gender. This involve forcibly repressing patriarchal culture and institutions. We hope that forcible repression of half the population (men) will not be necessary, but there will need to be active promotion of feminists into positions of power, and a careful re-consideration of the appropriate interactions between all humyns.

[Abuse] [Dalhart Unit] [Texas]

Grievance investigators protect staff at Dalhart

I would like to address the illegal acts by the grievance investigator Ms. Andersen at Dalhart Unit. I have written a grievance on a staff member here for discrimination and then I added three witnesses that saw and heard the incident to my grievance. I never mentioned to any of my witnesses that I put them down as witnesses. The reason behind this was so that it was clear it was not a plan nor did I coach them or inform them to say untrue things. So none of my witnesses knew that they were going to be called a witness.

When the grievance investigator, Ms. Andersen, called them in one by one, she never mentioned anything to any one of the witnesses about when the incident took place. Who put them down as witnesses, what they were witness too. All they knew is they were witness to an incident and could they think of anything. Only one of my witnesses had a clue, but was not 100% sure it was me. The other two had no clue on what incident the investigator was talking about because she said nothing more than "can you think of an incident". Because the investigator, Ms. Andersen, did not disclose to my witnesses anything only that they were put down as witnesses to an incident and could they think of an incident.

She interfered with the investigation to help her coworker out. I was made aware of this by my witnesses when I ask them have they been called as witnesses yet? But all of them stated what I stated above and the two that didn't give both stated "That was you that added me as a witness? Had I known I would have given a statement of what I saw and heard."

This is why most offender's grievances get shot down even when you have proof of discrimination or any other violation by a staff member. Because the person doing the investigation is most likely going to be biased or unfair in their finding or investigation when it comes to "coworkers" and "friends" they work with. This is nothing compared to what I saw and heard when it comes to the investigator who investigate the grievances written by offenders. I can only pray that God will bring things like this to the light to stop this unfair grievance procedure. I think this could be why I've been set off on parole four times already. All because I choose to fight them over the past 7 1/2 years.

[Abuse] [Hughes Unit] [Texas]

Denial of medicine, grievances and nowhere to turn in Texas

As I write you this letter, I'm sitting in G5 closed custody after standing up to an officer denying me medical and medication. The substitute counsel never helped me nor came back to speak with me. The captain lied and said I refused to attend my hearing. So they ran major court without me. We have cameras here and I can prove they are lying. But who do I contact? I've written the warden, but they ignore my letters and I-60. I never receive a grievance back. The law library is refusing to answer any of my I-60s. The officers have come into my cell and packed my property only to take some of my legal transcripts, returned I-60s, and medications, lay-ins and other personals. They went into my legal manila envelopes and took documents. They threw away my legal envelopes, combined several containers of legals into other folders mixing things up and getting them out of order.

What do I do? Who do I contact? No one on this unit will answer an I-60 concerning the issue. I need your help to start me in the right direction to help myself and my fellow brothers beside me. I don't have any outside sources or family to help.

[Economics] [Prison Labor] [Organizing] [Texas] [ULK Issue 64]

Debating the Prison Labor Movement

incarcerated workers organizing committee

I am approaching from a background of having been held captive in general prison population where I am aware that at least a few of us subscribe to The BayView and Under Lock & Key and agreed the latter's issue No. 62 is controversial in criticizing a certain labor union.

One reason for focusing on this outstanding view(s) is because some of us are unionized with this entity which is the only one of its class that waves membership dues for prisoners and is also actively involved in the prison abolition movement. Specifically you allude in your article to, "Those organizations don't want low paid prisoners to replace high paid petty bourgeois workers."

Further what I think was more shocking is you attributed to outside support low, selfish motive by claiming, "They would be happy to see prisoners rot in their cells... it's higher pay for their class that the labor aristocracy wants." Indisputably your position is informative and generally supported by historical patterns, including Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow which illustrated how Capitalists successfully divided White and New Afrikan working class through granting pay raises and white skin privileges who in turn collectively advocated us decaying in segregation.

I would like to remain on Under Lock & Key subscription list because by far, it's more advanced than a number of other non-mainstream publications, in that yours boldly challenges general thought trends. One case-in-point is an Elder had cautioned us to be vigilant on what Under Lock & Key also affirmed about those who share sentiments identified as "the mass base behind the prison craze." We see clear signs they are present, active and have self-centered agendas.

But in contrast to what you promoted, I don't think our struggle has yet nor is on the verge of being co-opted by selfish motives — though potentially via "Incarcerated Organizing Committees" — provided our focus don't prioritize amending the 13th Amendment over acquiring human rights and Independence, attacking deceptive parole mechanisms. In this regard, MIM(Prisons) provides a vital source exhorting the prison movement to re-evaluate the ramification of amending the 13th Amendment. Perhaps the pendulum will sway away from giving successive energy to the 13th Amendment when factoring that many prison systems already pay money of account for prisoner labor; but yet, both sides of the spectrum agree mass incarceration is the core problem.

In ULK 62, among other issue numbers, you criticize massive prison work strikes. The perspective MIM(Prisons) is herein asked to ponder upon is the impact of "sustained" general work strikes will have on the bottom lines of private sectors; namely, commissary stork, telephone companies, choicey livestock parts that never reaches our food supply, etc.

MIM(Prisons) responds: First, we must make a disclaimer related to this discussion. We've learned of a recent article in Turning the Tide by a couple of United Struggle from Within comrades that calls out IWOC, among other organizations, as "ghost organizations." This is NOT the position of MIM(Prisons) or ULK. We will likely address this in more detail soon. However, we hope our readers can distinguish our approach here in criticizing the political line of other organizations and the effects of that line, rather than disparaging them for not doing anything just because they aren't working with us. No one can deny that the IWOC has done a lot to successfully publicize recent prison struggles and actions.

Overall it seems we have a lot of agreement with the writer above, but areas of debate are well worth addressing. The main point raised here is whether labor unions are selfishly pushing their own agenda for higher wages for the Amerikan labor aristocracy, or if these labor unions can really be putting the interests of prisoners first in prison labor struggles.

As this writer notes, we have plenty of historical evidence of labor unions in the United $tates promoting the interests of the Amerikkkan nation at the expense of oppressed nations.(1) And this promotion of national oppression includes support for the expansion of prisons to lock up oppressed nations. In fact, those prisons provide well-paying jobs for many labor aristocracy workers. So the contradiction between prison employees and prisoners is amplified, as this incarceration is essential to their livelihood.

Many corporations can't take advantage of cheap prison labor because labor unions have put provisions in their contracts and state laws to force consultation with labor leaders before establishing a contract for prisoner labor. It is clear the cheaper labor available in prisons is a direct threat to the high wages paid to people outside of prisons for work that could be done by prisoners. Many labor unions are quite clear about their position on this point.

But the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) is different from other labor unions in that it claims to be international and anti-capitalist. The IWW is the labor union offering free membership to prisoners and actively campaigning on behalf of prisoners. The IWW also actively campaigns for higher wages for Amerikan workers. So they are walking a fine line between progressive work supporting prisoners' struggles, and reactionary pro-labor-aristocracy politics. The history of the IWW includes some clear examples benefiting white workers at the expense of colonial labor, as is documented in J. Sakai's book Settlers: Mythology of the White Proletariat.(2)

This doesn't mean the IWW is always working against the interests of prisoners. In fact they have waged some progressive battles. But their goal of raising wages for Amerikan workers is still fundamentally reactionary. The Amerikan labor aristocracy is the mass base for fascism, not a base for revolutionary organizing. They continue to come down on the side of imperialism, and are well bought off with the spoils of conquest and exploitation of oppressed nations around the globe.

In all of our prison struggles we need to keep the contradiction between internal oppressed nations (locked up, killed by police, flooded with drugs, denied economic, educational, and work opportunities, etc.) and the oppressor nation at the forefront. Why do we have such a huge prison population in the United $tates? It comes back to national oppression.

Battles around prisoners getting access to education, or getting paid for their labor, can be progressive parts of the struggle against the criminal injustice system. As long as they are framed in the context of the battle for liberation of oppressed nations. Opportunistically tying the prison labor battle to the broader Amerikan labor union struggles will only drag us down into reactionary oppressor-nation politics which builds up the labor aristocracy at the expense of the world's oppressed.(3) The oppressed, around the world and within U.$. borders, are always the losers in Amerikan labor union wage struggles.

[Abuse] [Medical Care] [Estelle High Security Unit] [Texas]

Denial of medical care at Estelle

I was sent here November of 2012 to get a hearing aid. Ten months later, I am still waiting on a hearing test, which is set for October. Until this happens, I am denied all programs from ADS (Assistive Disability Services), talking book program, just to name one.

I am amputated right arm above elbow. I am refused brace and limb as no medical indication that it is needed.

I am also denied a medical floor locker. Again, I have one arm and can't use the overhead lockers with the following restrictions, no climbing, reaching our the shoulder due to aneurysm on the left arm. ADS requested the box. This was denied by the law library staff. I fell while trying to place my property in overhead locker on June 2. It took 12 days to see medical staff and another 12 days to get an X-ray. By that time, my wrist had healed wrong with a big knot on it.

These issues and other have been addressed by the ombudsmen (unit captains) which is a cover up in itself. They are not picking on me, it is like that for everyone here at Estelle Unit.

The Law Library doesn't have law books on a shelf, it has no shelfs. You have to know what case law you want. Without the full name and cite, you get nothing.

[Abuse] [Ellis Unit] [Texas]

Contaminated water, tiny cells, dangerous conditions at Ellis Unit

The unit/prison that I find myself assigned to now is what is referred to as a "Red Brick Unit." Built in the 1960s at the latest where the cells are a mere 5'x9' with two occupants, giving a paltry 22.5 square feet of living space for these two prisoners to share. Unacceptable dehumanizing conditions. I have found that the feds have ordered such dual housing to be stopped: yet the TDCJ agency continues and is (reported to be) paying fines [to the feds, as restitution] to be allowed to continue this violative, inter alia, 8th amend. treatment of prisoners. One would not house two 150 pound dogs in such diminutive conditions.

Not to ignore the fact that we prisoners are not the only ones suffering from the de-humanizing conditions disdainfully provided for all, on and in these TDCJ agency's units. The COs too suffer the lack of civilized conditions, which should shock the conscience of the citizenry. For instance, cooler temperatures afforded the administration, medical, education, and on Ellis One, a special wing for youths, which too is air conditioned (an issue for another day). Not to mention that the sewage systems back up, belching feces laden water up from the toilets, saturating the cells, and especially first floor walkways, too include the main hallways: with "one inch" deep bacteriological contamination residues just left in the cells to fester for two months before inadequate packets of "bipi" is distributed for clean up of the cells. While all the walkways are cleaned with bleach. Endangering the health of all.

All-in-all these prisons are so deteriorated as to sustain these noxious environs poisoning all who live and frequent them without conditioned (filtered) air and water. At times the water is orange with contaminates. Whereas the water supplied by the local municipalities by way of deteriorated pressure lines, are both so befouled and degenerated, respectively, with black flake particles of unknown origin and chemical composition. Prisoners without means have no options but to ingest this pollution, not apprised of what kinds of future chronic affliction, malady, infirmity, or complication, such oppressive exposure overtime will plague us all with. In juxtaposition, those on these units who are not prisoners can and are provided bottled and/or filtered water for their safe usage.

[Abuse] [Eastham Unit] [Texas]

Eastham Conditions of Compliance

In my first newsletter of Under Lock & Key you spoke a lot about prison labor. Here on Eastham, you can't get the offenders to assume their role as the ones being imprisoned. This unit can literally run itself without the aid of the officers. From the counts, to disciplinary, to the organization of movement. In the past ten years they have resurrected the yellow lines. In between the lines they have waxed the floors and added the states emblem. They also have refused to write on causes that are structured because of violations on constitutional rights and even rights that deny us actual entitlements.

I miss the days where K-2 was plentiful on this unit. Why? Because some of these same individuals who are running the prison were the ones who helped ruin it. Don't get me wrong, it's not that bad of a race to do your time. It's easy time. It's peaceful all the time. And the programs here are plentiful. You have to learn how to keep to yourself here, but besides that we really have a clean plate to eat on.

The same place where you'll eat better with a stamp, or dress better with a bag of coffee. Some days I look at these men and I see where they come from, who they hung around, and what they were focused on. If you have a noble cause to rally, you'll fail to grasp the attention of over 80% of Eastham. These men are content with their lives being in jeopardy, their rights violated, their health threatened, and their freedoms stripped. If I were to tell every man in white on this unit to "lay it down" about 10% of the unit would stand strong. All they care about is making stamps, going to recreation and commissary, rumors and gossip, and last but not least the craft shop. A sad place to call home, and a horrible place to start a movement.