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.

[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.

[Abuse] [Robertson Unit] [Texas]

Parole revoked for false charges; grievance appeal useless

I have been subjected to delays, unanswered grievances, and harassment. After reading over your United Struggle from Within section I realized that this petition may very well be exactly what these people need. Here in Texas the grievance process is horrible. I'm currently incarcerated at the French Robertson unit, and on this unit all Step 1 grievances come back with the exact same response regardless of what the actual grievance was about. Which clearly shows a violation of the due process rights afforded to us due to the fact that no inquiry or investigation of any sort is being done to validate the response always given. I would like to join the campaign. I am in need of the petition.

I have recently experienced these very tactics with a grievance that I filed on a disciplinary appeal. I had made parole and was supposed to be released but was given a bogus case for fighting an inmate which resulted in injuries beyond first aid even though I wasn't involved in the fight in any way, shape, form, or fashion! To make a long story short for the sake of time: two people that I knew had already fought once in the dayroom and were still heated. I was in the cell. I came out to shower and one of the guys comes and tells me about the situation. I tell him that a fight wouldn't change any one of their minds about the situation (they were fighting about a Euro-Step!) so they should just agree to disagree. They end up fighting anyway. They aren't caught fighting but camera review gets us all locked up. According to them I was seen conversing with the two prior to the incident so I must have been involved. The case says that I engaged in the fight by being a "lookout." Which is total BS due to the fact that I didn't engage in anything nor is being a "lookout" a case anywhere in the TDCJ Handbook.

Of course the case sticks anyway, even though both of the guys admitted and wrote statement professing that they did fight each other and that I had nothing to do with the actual fighting, in fact I was the one who tired to defuse the situation. I still get slammed on the case and lose my parole as well. I file the Step1 grievance and it is returned a month or so later without incident with the pre-meditated response as usual. I file the Step 2 and it disappears. 45 days later it reappears without a response of any kind due to the fact that it hasn't been processed. I resubmit with all the inquiries from me to them questioning the whereabouts of the grievance. The Step 2 is returned to me in 2 weeks stating that the grievable time has expired!

I said all that to say this, comrades I feel your pain and struggle. I've lost my chance at freedom (semi-freedom) over a lying vindictive Lieutenant and a faulty grievance system, well not actually faulty cause faulty would indicate a mistake. This is done with blatant ill intent! I'm not discouraged though, just inspired to speak out on the injustice.

[Abuse] [Powledge Unit] [Texas]

TDCJ Erroneously Coding Grievances, Denying ADA Rights

Please send me the Texas pack. I shared mine with someone who did not return the entire contents. I have found the information to be most helpful. Just this week I won a Step 1 Grievance using the Texas pack.

The unit grievance officer had erroneously coded a Step 1 Grievance. The previously filed Step 1 had been concerning sleep deprivation only because I am wheelchair mobile, a "wheeler." Thus, the sleep deprivation is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (28 U.S.C. 12101 et seq.). However, the grievance was coded as "denial of access to health care." There is a very big difference.

While at the TDCJ Hospital Galveston (HG) Unit the staff denied me access to a bed for all but three hours during a four day period. Instead, I was forced to remain seated in my wheelchair in a holding tank. Just so their records would show that I had been assigned to a bed each night I was taken to a bed late at night and awakened a short time later to go back to the holding tank. Basically, I only obtained three hours of sleep during an approximate ninety-six hour period.

In further error, the unit grievance officer had misrouted my Step 1 to the senior practice manage. Presumably because it had been incorrectly coded. The senior practice manager knew he had no authority over the grieved issue. Yet he responded anyway, saying as much, and thus denying an opportunity for relief at the Step 1. I filed a Step 2 grievance asserting that no relief was available at the Step 1 for the reasons explained herein above.

In the TDCJ, denial of access to the grievance system is a grievable issue. Thus, I submitted a Step 1 Grievance asserting that (1) the unit grievance officer erroneously coded my ADA Step 1; and (2) the senior practice manager should have rerouted my Step 1 back to the unit grievance officer for appropriate handling.

It was only the availability of the TDCJ grievance codes in the Texas pack which allowed me to cite the appropriate code for my ADA complaint and to identify the erroneous code used by the unit grievance officer. As you know, the TDCJ Offender Grievance Operations Manual has been removed form the unit law libraries. I would not have been able to formulate my argument had the Texas pack not been available to me. But once again I am at a disadvantage with an incomplete Texas pack. Thank you for making this valuable resource available.

[Abuse] [Ferguson Unit] [Texas]

Bogus searches and threats at Ferguson Unit

I am a 30 yr equipment mechanic. I was placed at Ellis far shop as a trusty S2. There were rows of equipment to fix. I did so. Even going through all the drama. I was sent to other units equipment to fix. On 7/16/18 I was told I had Ellis equipment under control and I am being sent to Ferguson unit farm shop to repair equipment. After arriving at Ferguson Unit I have been subject to multiple property searches within an hours time. One property search from security threat group STG has taken property that has nothing to do with STG. They dumped it all out without even looking at letters, so on. Then they made threats of off the wall things. I am stunned by the things they say. Not one thing had to do with security. At Trusty camp you walk hand behind back, small portions of food. COs still talk bad and say things that is none of their business. They use excuses like "This is a youngster unit" if you find anything on this unit I could help with I'm here.

[Campaigns] [Texas] [ULK Issue 63]

Grievance Battle Sustainability

In January 2018, I was written a case at 9:45pm for creating a disturbance along with six other comrades. The case was read to me at approximately 10:30pm the next day. I had read that they have 24 hours to read you a case after it is written. This was the first in a long list of procedural errors that followed. It did not matter that one elderly lady was heavily medicated after the death of her sister and was asleep on the night in question. It did not matter that we all wrote a statement for her. One lady had an answer to go home, three ladies were waiting to see parole, and I had just requested a special review. We were all found guilty, but not of creating a disturbance. We were all found guilty of a charge they added while we were at court: Disobeying a direct order.

Needless to say I grieved the case, which was a major infraction. I knew the Lt. involved was involved in an alleged beating of another comrade some years ago, so before I sent in my grievance I sent a copy to my mom. Yes! Us women are beaten, raped, sexually harassed and/or assaulted, and placed on chain gang/hoe squads as punishment. I made a carbon copy of the grievance, and my mother sent a copy to the Regional Director's office and the Ombudsmen. Someone from the Regional Director's office visited me to ensure I was not being harassed.

Of course Step 1 was returned claiming "no procedural errors were noted." A blatant lie. I sent in a Step 2 and am awaiting a response. In the wake of these bogus cases one lady’s parole answer was revoked and three others fear the same fate awaits them. I was denied the opportunity to take correspondence courses for a bachelor’s degree. In situations like this I have to remind myself that the worst case I ever caught was the one that put me here. I will not live here in fear.

I do not yet have the TX Pack, but I advise you all to read your rulebook thoroughly, learn your A.D.s (P.D. 22s get kicked back often as unprovable, your word against theirs). A.D.s aren’t so easily denied, and Step 2 EVERYTHING! When necessary Step 3. Also, obtain a list from sub counsel of all the reasons you can successfully appeal a case. Last, keep your nose clean. There are people who tell me they will never write a grievance. They find it insulting when a pig tells them to “grieve it”. “I would NEVER” they say. Then some injustice is done to them and they come to me. I give them a code to go look up. The seed is planted in this way.

Another response I get is “write it for me and I’ll sign it”. Comrades, it seems nearly impossible to gather the troops. However, don’t look at it from that angle. Writing 20 people's grievances is just like doing their homework so they can graduate. They still won’t be able to peep the science nor do the math. When you have 2-3 people who are willing to campaign with you then each of you are known for activism, you’ll have people coming to you. When that time comes, guide them, don’t do their homework. In this way, “less is more, it’s plenty of us”.

MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is clearly leading by example, and one of the examples ey sets is ey doesn't let small failures upset em: "I will not live here in fear." Success takes sustained effort over a long period of time. COs will discourage us every chance they get. The DOC administration will do everything they can to shut down our protests even when we play by their own rules. This all is part of the battle, to expect it, and keep doing what we're doing in spite of any discouragement. Often our grievances will fail, but that doesn't mean we give up. It just means we need to look at our plan of attack.

The more successful we are, the more people are gonna hate on us. The better we get at filing grievances and lawsuits, the more the state is gonna repress us. Strong comrades like this writer stand up to this repression and continue to demand their rights be respected.

This writer also brings up an important point about leadership. Leaders need to prepare people to do things themselves, how to fight their own battles. The important thing is not filing the grievance itself. The important thing is teaching people how to fight these battles, and helping them build confidence that they can fight back. These lessons will carry over into other parts of their life and political work. We need more leaders to step up and provide this education behind bars. In this issue of ULK there are lots of suggestions for ways to engage people and do organizing work. Find a way that works for you to become a leader in the anti-imperialist movement!

[Organizing] [Texas] [ULK Issue 63]

Lead the Youngsters by Example

This letter is about how we need to encourage and educate each other while we are all in here. I am in my late 30s and this is my first arrest ever in my life. So the first couple of weeks was rough, until one of the guards made a threat against me and I did a greivance. The other prisoners laughed and said it would do no good. At first I felt they were right. The CO I wrote up was given the grievance and ripped it up in front of me and started to tell the others I was a snitch. I felt helpless.

Then I realized every other prisoner is between 17 and 23 — youngsters. So I decided to educate myself and others. So I got a copy of the grievance policy and exhausted it. Then a copy of the state commission policies and filed with them.

Finally I got a copy of your newsletter and passed it around and — bam! — the fire was lit in 2 people on my rung. They wanted to know how to file grievances so I showed them, walked them thru, and gave the support and explained that it all takes time to get any kind of legal paperwork done. After 2 and a half months, 2 suspensions and termination, I was moved to population. After about 2 hours of talking with the 20 inmates I was going to be housed with, we handed in 19 grievances. So now i am back in seg. The basic message is this: we need to teach these youngsters, educate them. As a common voice we can be heard and make a difference.