Below is a description of many problems at Ferguson Unit:
- segregation and gang violence
- drug addiction
- obstruction of grievance process
- arbitrary parole denial and obstruction of parole process
- pre-release units used to house paroled prisoners long-term
- censorship of legal mail
- denial of outside recreation
- lack of clean or adequate clothing
- undersized meals
- inadequate law library and court system
The problems in Texas jails are endless. Everybody either has a problem, doesn't care, is scared, gave up, or there's not enough prisoners who care to make a difference. First off, we are still dealing with race issues. Inmates against other inmates. Units are still blacks on one side, Spanish on the other and whites get in where you can, and a lot of them be friends with the Mexican side. If a white or Spanish inmate be on the black side, he is in a black gang. Then gangs are our second problem. Every race color group are against the other race gang. There are about nine different black gangs, about five different Mexican gangs, three white gangs, and so our problems in these two areas are endless. People only listen to their own race or gang.
Another major problem we prisoners are facing that I keep finding out is a lot of us can't read or write that well. Without being able to read or write, they can't file grievances or lawsuits. It is hard to help because a lot of peoples are not going to tell you they have this problem.
Now it is sad to say but we have a lot of prisoners who are dope addicts. All day long they want to get high, walking around here like zombies. They are smoking on what they call "K-2," but this is some homegrown spray chemicals they are putting on what it appear to be sticks and grass. This drug is being called Toon. It is spreading across Texas prisons like crazy. I seen people vomit, sell their body, sell everything they got, steal and fight other inmates when they are high and/or want to be high. Toon is the new craze because you can be high all day long by inhaling two short puffs. People also smoke it because their urine will not come up dirty.
Anyone who writes a grievance knows the warden who answers them is always biased against prisoners. 95% of the Step 1 responses always say the same thing ("insufficient evidence") and the problems do not get addressed. No prisoners are getting questioned if they saw what had happened which was reported in the grievance. The Warden will claim he talked to the officer and the officer said he did not do what he is accused of. The Step 2 responses will always side with whatever the warden said on the Step 1.
Before I forget, a never ending problem we are facing is parole. Parole is the biggest joke in Texas. When I was sentenced to TDCJ the judge said "I sentence you to 60 years TDCJ." Your work time, good time, and school time must add up to your halfway sentence (30 years), just to see parole. Now TDCJ says a whole new thing than what the judge told me and from what the statute states. TDCJ tells me if I want to make parole, I have to do 30 years flat; work time, school time, and good time will be calculated toward your full sentence. In reality I have over half my sentence done on paper and am supposed to be up for parole, but the parole board does not go by the Texas legislature.
I know an inmate who had a 30-year sentence for aggravated robbery. His case is considered a 3G offense due to the fact that a weapon was used, so he will have to do half his sentence just to see parole. In reality, if his work time, good time, and school time equals his halfway mark, he is supposed to see parole. He got 22 years flat time done on his 30-year sentence. He got two associate degrees and was working on a masters degree. The reason he did not make his first parole, when he did 15 years flat was due to "the nature of his offense." Now, you know and I know the nature of your offense does not and cannot change. It is your initial conviction.
TDCJ parole board called the person he robbed 15 years ago and asked, "The person who robbed you is up for parole, how do you feel about that? Do you want to deny his parole? If you do not have a ride, we will come and pick you up and you can speak at his parole hearing." Of course the person he robbed didn't want this brother to be released.
His second chance at parole was denied for the same reason. His third denial was was because the parole board stated, he "manipulated" the system. He was not getting any cases. When you stay out of trouble, they think you are getting over on them, so you must be doing something you're not supposed to be doing. His fourth denial was because he was a "suspected gang member." The parole board plays these types of games with the prisoners in Texas. They will come up with any and all kind of reasons to deny you release. When we do make parole we do at least 90% of our time. We end up serving 8 or 9.5 years flat on a 10-year sentence, or 18, 19, 19.5 years on a 20.
If the public looks on the computer, you can see the people who make parole are not actually at home, but in reality are held at a pre-release unit. On paper they are at their house but they really not. Texas just making more money from prisoners at these pre-release units. I had a homeboy gave all his belongings away because he made parole. He thought he was going home. He went to a pre-release unit for 2 years, and then they took his parole away from him and sent him back to the Ferguson Unit to do the rest of his time. At the pre-release unit, the computer had it that he made parole and went home.
Another problem is the mailrooms are taking it upon themselves to tell you what you can and can't have. They are censoring too much mail. They are denying anything they feel you should not have. They are opening up sealed legal mail and reading it. They are denying legal materials.
We are required outside recreation for 2 hours every day for 5 days a week. Ferguson Unit refuses to run outside recreation. The officers are writing down in the rec log that they run outside rec every day when in reality they are not. We can't get any sun on our skin.
We only have one set of clothes. You have to turn them all in just to get another set. We are required to have two sets. The problem with one set of clothes is, when you turn your only set in, in return they will give you a set of pants that may have holes in it, paint stains on the front or on the back. The shirts will be the same way. Then they want you to go to visit to see your family like this. If you're going to take a picture, you are out of there.
Another problem is how they feed us. We are not getting our daily 2000 calorie intake. The serving spoons are not be the right sizes and they water everything down. They only give you enough food to make it to the next meal.
Another major problem is the law library. They took away all the major books that you can use to help yourself fight your case effectively. They took the Texas constitution away, the CSS: Covous Juris Secundum, Texas Civil Statutes, property code and many more. They do not have a book on how to do a writ. Now how are you suppose to file a writ, when you do not have a sample to go on? They also do not have a motion book, criminal or civil. How do you know what to file or how to go about it? All the books they do have are outdated. They will only go so far back on the computer to let you read a case. When you shepardize a case, they will send you all over to something you did not ask for. They refuse to let you see any bills and acts and will tell you they can't get that for you.
On the unit I'm in, they only run two law library sessions a day. One at 3:45 a.m. and another at 11:45 a.m. Only certain people will be put in at 11:45 a.m. while the majority will be scheduled at 3:45 a.m. Why at 3:45 a.m.? Because they know nobody wants to go at that time, so a lot of people just don't show up. If you look at the law library schedule, it will say it runs sessions for 3:45 a.m., 6:45 a.m., 11:45 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4:45p.m. but they're just not going by the schedule.
Another major problem is the court system. I remember writing the district clerk in my county asking about my case and/or obtaining legal documents. He wrote me back stating he does not have to respond to prisoners because we are locked up and that if I want to hear from him I will have an attorney speak to him for me. He wrote down a Texas government code that states the same thing. I wrote him back explaining to him that I can't afford an attorney and that I'm fighting my case pro se. He wrote me back and still stated the same thing.
The fun never stops for a Texas inmate.