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.

[Campaigns] [Legal] [Texas] [ULK Issue 49]

Making Moves on Indigent Mail Campaign

In 1987, the Guajardo v. Estelle case, modifying the correspondence regulations in the Texas prison system, was finalized. One of the results of Guajardo was prisoners with less than $5.00 in their trust fund accounts were considered indigent, and thereby entitled to five one-ounce First Class correspondences per week, and unlimited legal and privileged correspondences.

Circa 1998, Jason Powers, attorney at law, with the firm Vinson & Elkins, contacted me informing me the state had filed a motion to vacate Guajardo pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). Powers solicited my assistance in defending plaintiffs' objection to State's motion. Obviously, the plaintiffs failed to prevail.

My concern regarding recent constrictions in indigent correspondence procedures is: Since vacating of Guajardo, indigent prisoner correspondence has been reduced from the 5 personal letters a week and unlimited legal correspondence, to 5 personal and 5 legal correspondence per month. This, when the indigent requirement has remained less than $5.00 since 1978, never being adjusted per the inflated dollar.

As such, I intend to commence a petition campaign directed at State Senator John Whitmire, State Committee on Criminal Justice, demanding not only that the 5x5 weekly indigent correspondence regulations be reimplemented, but that the standard of indigence required be adjusted to reflect a realistic inflated dollar. So fly this by your grievance writers and gauge their thoughts on the matter.

MIM(Prisons) responds: The reduction in indigent prisoner correspondence envelopes has a direct impact on prisoners' ability to stay in contact with family, fight legal battles, and engage in political education and organizing. The criminal injustice system wants to curtail these activities as a part of the goal of social control. As revolutionaries we support campaigns to expand access to correspondence, as we know this is critical to our ability to reach our comrades behind bars. We look forward to input from other grievance campaign participants about this new tactic in Texas.

Another campaign that is active in Texas is the right to access to a law library. We also recently learned that the Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook has been banned across the Texas Department of Criminal Injustice as of October 29, 2015. Texas is continuing a long history of assault on oppressed peoples in that state, and the only way we're going to be able to overcome the new (and old) tactics developed (and re-instituted) daily is to overthrow the state apparatus that makes it possible. Obviously Amerikkka's government system has got to go.

[Abuse] [Wynne Unit] [Texas]

Long-Term Untreated Injury from Officer Excessive Use of Force

I have been dealing with this unjust system in the federal court for their abusive action. In 2009 I was brutally injured by some TDCJ officers.

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) found one of the Sergeants at fault for non-provoked unnecessary excessive use of force. With the help of his co-workers my tibula and fibula were snapped causing a compound fracture break so serious that the paramedics could not transport me. I had to be life flighted to a free world hospital. Then with it being an "offender and officer" ordeal, medical was lacking so gangrene set into my leg. Plus one of the screws of the hardware had bent and when medical did surgery they left half the broken screw inside my leg.

I thought the Attorney General's office was to seek justice, but even though the OIGs office found them at fault the AG's office is defending the officer like they did nothing wrong. To this day my leg is constantly swelling with major pain and I am not given proper pain treatment. I am supposed to be on a single level unit but I am not. I am not supposed to walk over 50 yards (50 feet by specialist suggestion, doctors that are specialists and work for University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) the same medical system that supplies the employees to the units). The doctors on the unit override their coworkers - the specialist - and making me put more pressure on my legs that has not fully healed. The mental stress - at times these officer get aggressive and this triggers an offense/defense mentality issue in me that almost causes me to get caught up in more trouble with this system. Is there a way to get this abuse to the mass media? You have officers jumping on handicapped and older people. The officers pick their battles.

[Medical Care] [Coffield Unit] [Texas]

Medical Treatment and Medical Negligence

I have been having trouble with the medical treatment I have been given since entering the system, to include mis-diagnosis and further injury after this. I have twice been charged for treatment of illness/injury caused by neglect and the negligence of the medical department. Not only am I being charged, I am being refused surgery to correct an injury because it is not life-threatening. But it is definitely causing a lot of misery/discomfort and diminished quality of life.

Without getting into specifics, I was treated for cancer in 2011-2012 and after 1 year of trying to get properly diagnosed, I had chemotherapy and two surgeries. After my last surgery, I was forced to return to work and, despite complaints, developed a hernia on my surgery site. I have seen a surgeon twice since 2012 and have been declined for surgery and only given work restrictions.

I have a lot of complications developing from this and twice the medical department has charged me for treatment. I would like some help in the procedures to properly grieve these issues and prayerfully get relief. Thank you for your assistance.

[Medical Care] [Coffield Unit] [Texas]

No Prosthetic Services for Amputee

I am an amputee prisoner on a non-ADA-compliant Unit, Coffield. I have been trying to get prosthetic services for 1 year 2 months now. I have tried UTMB provider, ineffective grievance system, even less effective is the chain of command. Wardens Rupert, Cooper, and Richardson sign off on the grievances to cover ALL the issues wrong with this unit: solitary, overcrowding, much needed better medical system, unsanitary eating utensils, mail room opening of legal mail, etc.

I have been writing to a disability lawyer and building design access for disabled, all the way up to Governor Abbot, Director of TDCJ Brad Livingston, every possible department in TDCJ, even the regional director. But my prosthetic issue started out as a minor height adjustment. My condition(s) now have become painfully severe to walk or stand in line for long periods of time.

This medical area holds 27 but has up to 50 prisoners with TB, AIDS, insulin open sores, bandages bloodied and needing change. I have grieved every medical issue. Some grievances are never returned, others are signed off as "complaint noted" but NO good results.

The whites wanted to lay it down and refuse work, the Mexicans were strong in their backing of this, but waiting for the rest of the population to join in, and it just petered out. No unity here, everyone is down for theirs. Here is some paperwork you can print in your newspaper.

prosthetic docs
[Abuse] [Telford Unit] [Texas]

Telford Unit Health Dangers and Other Abuses

This is just an attachment to give you a slightly more detailed update of some of the conditions we experience here on Telford Unit in Ad-Seg.

1. Lack of access to the law library. We are able to request material 3 days a week but during any lockdown and the duration thereof, all access is suspended and non-existent.

2. The indigent mail program. Not only are we now limited to 5 letters a month but our mailroom here has taken these limitations even further at various times. Example: If a prisoner only uses 4 of his indigent letters in a month, then he is denied the full 5 envelopes the following month. Prisoners are required to "justify" all requests of carbon paper, which must also be returned upon receiving new ones. All of these mail restrictions are clear attempts at silencing prisoners and limiting their socialization with the outside world.

3. We have a major rat infestation. Literally, so many rats running around that they are visible at almost any given time. They leave trails of feces and this includes inside our cells if the bottom of our cell doors are not blocked. They are also known to cause damage to personal property. Rats are carriers of various organisms and disease that cause health problems. This is clearly an indication of unsanitary and inhumane conditions.

4. Many of our cells are less than fully functioning. Water buttons not fully functional, and even sometimes not at all for long periods of time. Cell lights are not fully functional, causing eyesight problems and not being able to read and write at night time.

5. Serving us spoiled food on a regular basis with no attempt whatsoever to rectify the situation. This is undeserved and unjust deprivation.

6. We also experience the "torturous methods" used as described by the brother at Pelican Bay in California in ULK 47. All movement is supposed to stop at 10 p.m. But they do their "security checks" by entering the pod through crash gates, crossover doors, shining flashlights in on us, and asking us to move around to "show we are alive."

[Medical Care] [Stiles Unit] [Texas]

Medical Neglect in Texas

Over a year ago I was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, a chronic liver disease. At one time I started treatment for Hepatitis B, something I didn't have. I told them I never requested this. Medical responded that it was for my protection. Medical care here is horrible. I keep complaining about my treatment, but the medical staff says there are people sicker than me. They have a new treatment but it costs a lot. However I am looking for some legal assistance in this matter. I have found out the pill they bring me is for asthma, an allergic disease. I don't have asthma, or no allergies and I know it has caused some liver damage. I started having some bad abdominal pains. I stopped taking the pill. And did my own research and found out this pill was not for my treatment. Can you assist me in finding a lawyer in this matter?

[Campaigns] [Cotulla Unit] [Texas]

Cotulla Unit Warden Responds to Indigent Mail Step 1 Grievance

I filed a Step 1 grievance about the illegality of the restrictions on indigent correspondence. I cited Guajardo v. Estelle in my grievance. Below is the response I received from the Assistant Warden.

"The Unit Law Library operates in accordance with applicable policy. No action is warranted." - J. Alvarez, Asst. Warden
[Legal] [Control Units] [Abuse] [Connally Unit] [Texas]

Update on Lawsuit on Inadequate Rec and Food

I've been really busy with that lawsuit on the conditions here, and other complaints and organizing activities related to that. The good news is that the judge reviewed the law on the case, and ruled that if the allegations are true the prison officials are violating the law, and so they must respond. He ordered them to be served with the suit and gave them 40 days to respond.

The bad news is that they have gone back to canceling recreation all the time, for any pretext they can think of. But you know, that's how it goes.

[Legal] [Campaigns] [Connally Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 49]

Lawsuit on Inadequate Rec and Food Pending, Seeking Assistance

Texas Administrative Segregation Lawsuit help needed
Linked document is a letter from the prisoner
requesting assistance with eir lawsuit.

The conditions continue to be much better here at Connally Unit in Kenedy, Texas since I filed that lawsuit on the recreation/lockdowns/food. But of course that could be reversed at any moment so I continue to push it and continue to use it as a tool to organize/mobilize the prisoners to take group action.

We are working on a mass grievance campaign at the moment, to follow up on some of the issues that are in the lawsuit but the administration hasn't adequately addressed. It's really pretty minor stuff, as the main thing was them cancelling rec every day, and they have stopped doing that. But I feel like you're either moving forward or you're going to move backwards, you know? And the real value in a group action like a mass grievance campaign is what it does to raise the consciousness of the group.

There is definitely a lot more interest since people here have seen that we CAN fight back. But the general consciousness level was so low here and the prisoners were so beat down and demoralized that it will take a LOT of work to develop any widespread activist mentality.

I'm going to enclose a copy of a form letter I typed up and sent out to about ten civil rights organizations already. It's pretty self-explanatory. Just trying to get some more support on this lawsuit. And I know your funding is very limited plus you aren't lawyers there, so you're not going to be able to help directly. But I'm sending it on the off chance that someone there might know a lawyer with sympathies towards the cause who might be willing to do something.

Like I explain in the letter, we don't necessarily need actual representation. This is a pretty straightforward case and they are going to want to settle at some point. Obviously they are — that's why they immediately started running rec again once I filed it. They know the records are going to show they were just flat out lying about these so-called staff shortages. But with a lawyer putting additional pressure I think we will get better terms on any settlement and a settlement will happen quicker.

I want to get these improvements locked in with a legally binding written agreement asap so that I can move on to other projects. So if you do happen to know a lawyer or have any other ideas for what you might do with this letter, please keep our struggle here in mind, okay? Thanks.

MIM(Prisons) adds: The pdf linked to this article is a copy of the author's letter ey sent to ten civil rights organizations. The letter outlines the conditions in Connally Unit regarding an egregious lack of recreation time and lack of adequate food. The author is asking for a lawyer to intervene in order to push the lawsuit to a quick settlement. If you are able to assist this struggle, please write to MIM(Prisons) and we will put you in touch with the leader of the suit.

[Medical Care] [Control Units] [Estelle High Security Unit] [Texas]

Injury, Insult, Disability, Isolation

Please remember that I am visually impaired, currently being treated for glaucoma, photo sensitivity, etc. Also, it has been commented on more than once that for a visually impaired persyn I seem to have no difficulty drafting correspondence. My patent response is I have, over the course of my life, drafted thousands upon thousands of holographic documents and correspondence. I can literally do so with my eyes closed. I am also a touch typist.

Since the 14th of this month I have been confined to an isolation cell devoid any light whatsoever except the modicum of light entering the cell from the hallway - by which I am writing this letter.

First, no sooner did I set the date per this letterhead than I was approached by a mailroom official informing me the book Settlers: Mythology of the White Proletariat had been denied. It seems Settlers is on a permanent denial list and is unappealable. This will be the first literature denial I have ever not challenged, or failed to prevail over, but I have stretched myself so thin I need to regroup. By my estimate, the propensity of prevailing per a challenge to this denial is less than good.

The reason for this denial is racial content and depictions of rape. Some years ago I received through the mail Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart. Go figure. I could not bring myself to allow this important tome to be destroyed. Recognizing the scarcity of resources, Settlers will be returned to MIM Distributors.

I did receive the Ricketts' Prisoners of Liberation. I am anxious to delve into Prisoners, especially being absolutely isolated. All I can say is thank you so much for sending Settlers and Prisoners. I'm just so sorry I was unable to receive Settlers. Look for it to be returned in the next couple of months.

On November 13 the majority of my property was stored, including my legal materials, correspondence supplies, study items, etc., and I was transported from here, the Estelle Unit, to the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) John Sealy Hospital, Galveston, per ophthalmology consultation for prospective eye surgery. I brought stamped envelopes, 1 writing tablet, 1 ink pen, the book On Trotskyism, MIM Theory magazines 6 and 10, and minimal hygiene items. I also included MIM(Prisons)'s most recent communication to me. My intent for including correspondence materials and MIM(Prisons)'s items is apparent.

The evening of Nov 13 at approximately 6 p.m., the transport bus bringing me back to Estelle was rear-ended at a high speed by a UTMB John Sealy doctor in an SUV on a cell phone. The transport bus was at a dead standstill. The doctor did not apply an ounce of pressure to eir brakes. The SUV's engine was pushed back 3 feet or more. Fortunately the doctor walked away. Seated at the back of the bus I sustained neck and back injuries.

At approximately 7 p.m. I was returned to the John Sealy Hospital, admitted, subjected to spinal cervical imaging, held overnight, and discharged the next morning with an ordered treatment regiment and a prescription for pain medication. Neither of which has been implemented as of this writing.

Late morning, November 14, I was wheel-chaired to a transport bus awaiting to return me to Estelle. UTMB medical personnel placed a bright yellow band on my right wrist designating me, in bold lettering, a fall risk. As such, it was ordered I be handcuffed singularly.

Arriving at the Estelle Unit at approximately 3 p.m., awaiting my return was a medical staffer with a wheelchair so that I would not be at risk of falling as ordered by UTMB doctors. Once taking a seat in said wheelchair, a prison guard ordered me out of the chair. In response I informed the Sergeant that I had sustained neck and back injuries via an auto accident, UTMB doctors had deemed me a fall risk, indicating the bright yellow wrist band, UTMB doctors had ordered I be ambulated via wheelchair, and the Sergeant was devoid the authority to supersede a medical directive. The Sergeant then again ordered me to remove myself from the wheelchair threatening me with physical assault and disciplinary action should I fail to comply.

As a visually impaired prisoner I have been issued, among other adaptive aid devices, a visual disability orientation cane. Pursuant to being ordered from the wheelchair, rather than using my cane to orientate myself with my surroundings, I used the cane for physical support while attempting to walk to the prison edifice proper, causing me to fall several times. Said Sergeant disallowed any persyn, neither security staff or prisoner, to assist me. Once inside the prison proper, and beyond the scrutiny of the belligerent Sergeant, a non-ranking guard did allow me to ambulate via wheelchair to my assigned housing unit.

When returned to Estelle from Galveston, I was issued no bedding (i.e. 2 sheets, 1 blanket, as required). Arriving at my assigned cell, the bunk I was assigned had no mattress. I advised all guards working my assigned prison wing, as well as all ranking officers on duty, as to the situation, notifying them all that less than 24 hours prior I had suffered neck and back injuries incurred in an auto accident. All my attempts to obtain a mattress and bedding were met with indifference by prison staff.

At approximately 11 p.m., one Sergeant Mims, a 3rd shift supervisor, entered my assigned prison wing. I approached Mims informing em as to my predicament, and was again met with indifference. I reluctantly informed Mims that I would bring the property in my possession to the wing dayroom and remain there until I was provided a mattress and bedding, suggesting to Mims that, since I had been injured, perhaps they could place me in the infirmary until I could be provided adequate bedding, or appropriate housing could be located. Though the dayroom was open for prisoner access, Mims stated if I entered the dayroom they would place me in lockup. I then invited Mims to place me in lockup so the entire travesty would be formally documented, ergo substantiating my prospective filing of an administrative grievance, and forthcoming litigious action. Mims then ordered me to place my hands behind my back so that I could be restrained thusly. I advised Mims it was required my hands be manacled in front as I am visually impaired, necessitating the use of a visual disability orientation cane so as to effectively maneuver throughout the prison. Mims repeated the order to place my hands behind my back. In compliance, I dropped my cane, placing my hands behind my back. Mims did restrain me and led me to the prison infirmary for a pre-hearing detention physical.

I've not seen my orientation cane since. Keep in mind, Estelle not only encompasses the High Security Unit, it is also the regional medical facility for the southern region of TDCJ.

I was placed in PHD (i.e. isolation) devoid any of the required criteria authorizing such. I was placed in isolation with nothing but the clothes on my back. Again, there was no mattress or bedding. Just a bare, steel bunk. No toilet paper. No water (The water faucet didn't work. I was denied water for 4 days as I was on a hunger strike [11 days] and told if I ate I would be provided water.). After 4 days I placed my mouth directly on the faucet and sucked in an effort to obtain water. I must have removed some sort of plumbing obstruction by this means (yuk!) as I did create a trickle of water that I captured in a Styrofoam cup finally provided me. The isolation wing windows and outside vents were open, bringing the temperature in isolation cells down into the 40s. I had nothing but the clothes on my back, and the shoes on my feet.

The night of the 14th, morning of the 15th, I spent sitting upon a stainless steel commode. I had been without sleep for approximately 80 hours due to being transported to Galveston, the auto accident, being poked and prodded all night at the hospital, being transported back to Estelle, and not being afforded appropriate housing. Sitting on that steel commode, in frigid temperatures, I began to hallucinate. I had the most marvelous conversation with my significant other of 15 years. That has been my best experience since being incarcerated. I must've been talking out loud. A guard came to check on me and seeing the condition I was in, after 15 hours (I have a talking wrist watch) in isolation, I was brought a mattress from an unoccupied isolation cell. It had been there the entire time. Some time after this a prisoner in isolation that had 2 blankets sent me one. They, I believe a Black persyn, stated when sending the blanket: "Black, white, brown, red, yellow, we all gotta stick together," which was encouraging - especially for Texas.

The first meal provided me was breakfast, the morning of the 15th. The guard serving trays spit in it. Thinking I was visually disabled rather than impaired, they spit in my food right in front of me. The breakfast tray was white paper that I could discern. The offending guard was in the hallway light directly in front of my cell. Rather than seen, I heard the guard spit into my food. Much like the pig that kicked Mumia into the Black Panther Party, this incident prompted me to commence a hunger strike.

Initially, my hunger strike demand was for adequate bedding, but as the days wore on, expanded to include being reunited with my extensive legal books, documents and papers; my correspondence materials (14 writing tablets, 14 stamped envelopes, 15 ink pens); hygiene items; and my political literature. After a week I was allowed my shower shoes, toothbrush, and toothpaste. I was informed this was all that was allowed a PHD confinee. As the statue designation would indicate, PHD is implemented prior to disciplinary hearing. There are no prison rules or regulations depriving a PHD prisoner possession of their property. I have been in PHD several time before and always have had possession of all my property until after a disciplinary hearing when disciplinary sanctions may restrict access to certain property items.

Rather remarkably, on November 25, I was allowed to order and receive commissary purchases: correspondence supplies (including a greeting card), soap/shampoo, fingernail clippers, and coffee, all items denied me from my confiscated and/or stored personal property. When the property officer delivered my shower shoes, etc., I inquired why I was not allowed correspondence materials so that I might contact my significant other. Their answer: "I don't know. I don't want to get involved."

Interestingly, my commissary receipt shows I am in transit status rather than PHD. The property officer claimed I am in administrative segregation level III, just shy of high security. This, absent a disciplinary hearing.

On November 23 I was approached in my isolation cell by an administrator informing me I was charged with several disciplinary infractions. This persyn did not introduce themselves as my counsel substitute (C/S, advocate) per the disciplinary at issue. It seems Mims's claims I threatened to inflict bodily harm on them by stating: "if I go in that dayroom, there's going to be problems for y'all tonight - I promise you that." Had I said what Mims claims, which I didn't, it's not much of a threat. Pretty lame. Mims also claims I failed to comply with a direct order by not putting my hands behind my back to be restrained. Again false. Finally, Mims stated I was a threat to institutional security cause they had to summon backup staff and a video camera per a "potential use of force." Gotcha! There was no backup, and there is no video.


Stupid motherfucker.

Mims writeups are nothing more than attempts at creative writing, resulting in poor fiction.

The C/S delivered me with disciplinary notice 10 days into my PHD confinement. Understand, all, each and every time constraint in which to process and adjudicate a disciplinary action, had elapsed. On November 24 I was ushered before a disciplinary captain (DHO, Disciplinary Hearing Officer), at which time I categorically contested the entire disciplinary process from the beginning. I was summarily ejected from the hearing.

The next morning I was again brought before the DHO. When I again protested the disciplinary procedure, the DHO and C/S attempted to repress my dissent. In retort, I proclaimed the disciplinary hearing to be my hearing. The DHO then stated they could conduct the hearing without my presence. I countered: "This is my opportunity to be heard, is it not Captain Martinez?" Martinez then leaped from his seat and charged me as if to attack. Standing over me in a menacing manner, Martinez ordered my escorts to, "Get him outta here before I put him outta here!"

Rest assured, comrades, I was nonplussed. I can only assume the hearing at issue was held in absentia, though I've yet to be notified as to any outcome.

In regards to the hunger strike: though I still have not received my legal/political papers, including addressed, after receiving a mattress, blanket, and correspondence materials via commissary purchase, I broke my strike on November 26, a total of 11 days after embarking on such.