Prisoners Report on Conditions in

Texas Prisons

Got legal skills? Help out with writing letters to appeal censorship of MIM Distributors by prison staff. 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.

[Environmentalism] [Pack Unit] [Texas]

Pack Unit Violates Ground Water Monitoring Law

I have papers showing that the prison on this unit violated the Ground Water Rule. TDCJ Pack Unit failed to collect the required number of triggered source bacteriological samples for fecal indicator monitoring of the ground water system during the last year. This monitoring is required by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Drinking Water. They are in violation of the drinking water all over the system. I wrote the U.S. Department of Justice Special Litigation Section. I got a letter from the Chief of that Department, no results.

[Abuse] [Coffield Unit] [Texas]

Unsanitary, Dangerous, Health-Threatening Conditions at Coffield Unit

To: Head Warden Cato, Coffiel Unit

Re: Unconstitutional Conditions of Confinement at the TDCJ/Coffield Unit, Institutional Division

The Conditions as described herein should be obvious to the trained eye of professional Correctional Staff. These conditions are longstanding and pervasive. I respectfully request to not be retaliated against for the exercise of my constitutional rights. It is well noted in every Circuit and the Supreme Court that “prison officials may not retaliate against or harass an inmate because of his exercise of his First Amendment right to seek redress of grievance.”

I. Unsanitary Conditions in Chowhall

The conditions in the chowhall are unsanitary. The spoons, trays and cups are not properly washed and sanitized before and after each use. The trays often have standing water in them, the spoons are greasy and often have food residue on them. The chowhall floor is filthy and there are puddles of standing water on the floor on a regular basis. The staff and inmates who are serving food do not wear gloves. The tables are not properly wiped and sanitized.

The chowhall is known to be infested by cockroaches, mice and birds. The birds are known to eat the cornbread out of the pans in the baking area, and to defecate on the cornbread. It is believed that security cameras in the baking and kitchen areas confirm this. The floor drains in the cooking area are known to back up with raw sewage.

These unsanitary conditions, individually and collectively, may be conducive to the spread of food borne illnesses; these conditions pose a threat to the health of inmates at the Coffield Unit.

  1. Sleep Deprivation

The policies of TDCJ/Coffield Unit contribute to and cause the sleep deprivation of inmates. Sleep is recognized as a basic human need. TDCJ’s system-wide policy of having Correctional Staff conduct late-night bed-bunk counts deliberately causes sleep deprivation.

Between 11:00 PM and 2:00 AM, inmates are awakened by a Correctional Officer, and are asked to present their Prison Identification Card, or to recite their number.

Furthermore, several times throughout the night, the guards in the Control Picket, or “Rotunda,” are blaring announcements on the intercom loudspeakers. This disturbs inmates from their sleep.

Finally, Coffield begins feeding breakfast between 2:00 AM and 2:30 AM. Feeding time may run until 4:00 AM. If an inmate goes to have breakfast they may lose an hour of sleep, or possibly more. They are forced by this ridiculous schedule to choose between sleep or food.

Then between 4:00 AM and 5:00 AM, Coffield begins showering. Thus causing the loss of at least another hour of sleep.

Therefore, because of the bed-bunk counts, loudspeaker blaring, breakfast and showering schedules it is near impossible to get even 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. This sleep deprivation poses a serious risk of physical and psychological harm to inmates.

  1. Overcrowding

The cells at the Coffield Unit are too small for double occupancy. The cells were only designed for single occupancy. Hence it follows that the day-rooms are overcrowded and must serve double the number of inmates for which they were designed.

Inmates at Coffield in the main building are confronted with the reality that overcrowding is omnipresent within the confines of the prison. This overcrowding has an adverse effect on all the day-to-day operations of the prison.

The cells at the Coffield Unit and the other older model units have an area of only forty-five square feet, with only twenty-one and a half square feet of usable floor space. So cramped are such cells, that two persons standing, must squeeze by each other in order to pass. This cramped closeness of confined persons causes tension and sometimes leads to fights and violence.

These cells are not equipped with a table or bench to sit on. The top bunks are not equipped with a ladder or steps to assist inmates in climbing up and down. This is an obvious safety hazard.

Some of the obvious psychological effects of such overcrowded confinement are, i.e. the spread of disease, the enhancement of stress, tension, hostility, depression and physical and psychological deterioration.

These negative effects due to overcrowding run counter to the process of rehabilitation, and are the cause of serious behavioral problems.

  1. Day-rooms/Ingress-Egress

The day-rooms are overcrowded, they lack the necessary area required for the number of inmates they house; they also lack sufficient seating. The bathroom facilities in the day-rooms are inadequate: there is only one urinal, one sink and NO toilet.

Hourly ingress and egress moves are not conducted. Per TDCJ Policy, these moves are to be done hourly. However, often times inmates are trapped in cramped, overcrowded and noisy day-rooms without adequate bathroom facilities for 2 or 3 hours at a time without being given the opportunity to go to their cell.

The day-room’s whole back wall window panels do not have tint of shade to guard against the hot bright sun. The sun is magnified by the glass panels and shines directly into the day-room, blinding inmates and turning the day-room into a very hot and muggy torture chamber. There are no fans to circulate the air. There are no screens on the windows to keep mosquitoes out. Mosquitoes are carriers of disease.

V. Lack or Regular Exercise/Outdoor Exercise

Inmates at the Coffield Unit on P3 & P4 are not afforded regular opportunities for exercise, and they are not afforded regular/any opportunities for outdoor exercise, and access to fresh air and sunshine.

Regular exercise, fresh air and sunshine are basic human needs. They are necessary for maintaining one’s physical and psychological health.

By contrast, inmates in medium custody are afforded regular outdoor exercise during the afternoon. Likewise inmates in P5 and P6 receive outdoor exercise daily. Only inmates in P3-P4 are singled out and denied outdoor exercise.

Furthermore, per TDCJ Policy, there is supposed to be a recreation schedule posted for inmates to consult. There is no such schedule posted in the cell blocks at Coffield.

  1. Lack of Exercise Opportunities for Inmates with Chronic Medical Problems/Disabilities and Aging Inmates

There are no Exercise Programs for older inmates (late forties and older) or for inmates with disabilities or other medical conditions.

When gym, a.k.a. “indoor recreation” is called, it is extremely overcrowded and it is difficult to get any exercise at all. All Coffield offers is basketball, handball and an overcrowded universal weight machine.

These recreational policies systematically discriminate against and deprive older inmates and inmates with health problems and disabilities from being able to get any exercise at all.

The inmates do not even have an opportunity to walk or jog for thirty minutes to an hour, 3 or 4 times a week.

Inmates who are older, as well as inmates who suffer from chronic health conditions/disabilities form a recognizable class of inmates who are protected under the “Equal Protection Clause”, and also the “Americans with a Disability Act”.

The discriminatory conduct perpetrated by TDCJ/Coffield Unit are actionable in Federal Court. Furthermore, the conditions described herein are in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, and constitute Cruel and Unusual punishments.

  1. Conclusion

It is obvious that the Conditions of Confinement deprive inmates of the minimal civilized measures of life’s necessities, and subjects them to unreasonable health and safety risks.

These conditions described herein are longstanding and pervasive; they do pose a serious risk of harm to all inmates at the Coffied Unit.

Copies of this letter have been sent to:
1. Senator John Whitmire
2. ARRM, Division, Huntsville, TX
3. U.S. Attorney General, United States Department of Justice, (USDoJ)
4. Human Rights Watch, Austin, TX
5. Texas Inmate Family Association
6. Brad Livingston, Director TDCJ

[Campaigns] [Censorship] [Legal] [Wayne Scott Unit] [Texas]

Step 1 and Step 2 Grievances on Indigent Mail Campaign

Prisoner filed Step 1 grievance in March 2016:

“I file this grievance against the Texas Board of Criminal Justice’s revision to the TDCJ Correspondence Rules, effective 1st October 2013. This revision restricts indigent prisoners to five one-ounce domestic letters per month and removes all references to the first 60 days that a prisoner is indigent. Prisoners retain their First Amendment right to free speech (i.e. right to be free from unjustified governmental interference with communication). This revised policy violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments. It is also contrary to standards established in Guajardo v. Estelle, 580 F.2d 748. Guajardo established that ‘prison furnished postage and stationary to indigent inmates for special and attorney correspondence and give additional letters per week without waiting period but with right to recoup amounts expended during the first 60 days.’ Secondly, in light that general correspondence rules touch on the rights of persons not incarcerated to receive mail, this revision also violates the Constitutional Rights of my friends and family. Finally, there is no legitimate or rational basis (besides administrative convenience) for the increased communication restrictions on indigent prisoners. It is unreasonable, and unrelated to any legitimate interest in security, order or rehabilitation. Thank you for your understanding.”

L. Doyle Sr. Warden Wayne Scott Unit responds:

“Investigation of your complaint has found that Ms. Grays, Law Library Supervisor is adhering to the Access to Courts, ATC-034 (Rev.6). No policy violations notes. No action.”

Prisoner filed Step 2 grievance in March 2016:

“My grievance is against the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, NOT Ms. Gray the Law Library Supervisor the individual. My complaint in Step 1 was not resolved.”

R. Pool, Asst. Program Administrator, Access to Courts, Counsel and Public Officials responds to Step 2 grievance:

“Step 1 has addressed your complaint. The Texas Board of Criminal Justice approved a revision to BP-03.91, Uniform Offender Correspondence Rules, on 08/23/13 that states,”… An indigent offender may use indigent postage to send five (5) one-ounce domestic letters per month to general correspondents and five items per week to legal or special correspondents… Funds expended by the TDCJ for postage and stationary for indigent offender’s shall be recouped by the TDCJ from funds later deposited in the offender’s ITF account.” No further action is warranted.”
[Release] [Texas]

Parole on Paper but No Way to Pay

I was close to seeing parole for my third time. Even if I would make parole, I have no place to go. The half-way houses in Texas want money before you parole there. How am I supposed to pay them if I’ve been incarcerated for the past 4 years in a state that doesn’t pay their inmates to work? I’ve seen numerous people make parole, not have a place to go, and remain here for 15 month after they were granted parole! What kind of sense does that make? But Texas is good with it because it looks like they are using their parole and they are still collecting money from the government for said prisoner. My time for release is coming soon and I have no place to go or any type of plan. I’m more than capable of working, but I need some help getting started.

[Abuse] [Campaigns] [McConnell Unit] [Texas]

Trying to Defend Rights in Texas

As of now, several other prisoners and I are having major problems with our grievances not being processed. The reason given for not processing the grievances is “issue not grievable.” One of my grievances was against a Corrections Officer (CO) who refused to issue confiscation papers after taking something from a prisoner. The other one was against another CO who forced me to stay in the day room with my commissary (when it’s strictly against policy). In that grievance I cited such policy and it was immediately (the very next day) sent back to me with the excuse “issue not grievable”. So, I’ve send a letter to the Administrative Review & Risk Management (ARRM) Division Administrator. I still haven’t heard back from them. Still waiting. But I won’t at all be surprised if I don’t get an answer. I know very well how these people work. Please send me some grievance petitions.

In your March/April 2016, No.49 news letter you published an article by a South Carolina prisoner, “One More Doctor Replaced”. Very interesting article. Because here at the McConnell Unit we have a P.A. Erie Echavarry that would do anything in his power to deny prisoners as much medical care as possible. I’ve filed grievances and complaints with the Texas Board of Examiner’s in Austin, Texas. But to no avail. Things have gotten worse, especially for those of us who file complaints against him. You will never see the end of medical negligence. And the worst thing of all is that you will stay stuck seeing the evil P.A. Echavarry. I was told that I don’t have a say in who I get to see.

The Texas Board of Examiners responded that there was insufficient evidence to substantiate my allegations against P.A. Echavarry. I’m not the only one who’s filed complaint’s with T.B.E in Austin, TX against this P.A., and nothing is being done about it. Is there anybody that you can refer me to that can help me in regards to this matter?

I was at the Connally Unit. I know how bad the food is over there. Here at McConnell is no different. The food is 100% inadequate. While we are served casserole about 98% of the time, which is mainly noodles more than anything else, the officers are fed ribs, fried pork chops, chicken, or chicken fried steak. Some days they eat Mexican food such as chalupas. This is even though the law is that they are to eat what we prisoners eat. With the exception that the chicken be baked or fried, the same with fish, and chicken patty, or burrito etc.

But it’s very rare that these officers eat what we prisoners eat. It is a known fact. On my next letter I will try to have documentation to send you to this matter.

I try my best to fight these injustices, even filing “Citizen Complaints” with the Ombudsman. But lately, either the Ombudsman is not taking into consideration the complaints that have been filed with his agency, or here at the McConnell unit they are disregarding them. I helped a friend file one through one of my nieces, Which he hasn’t heard anything of yet. It’s been already 2 weeks now. Well, i think this will be all for now. Until next time.

[Abuse] [Garza East Unit] [Texas]

Fabricated Disciplinary Reports in Texas

First of all, thank you for your work on the behalf of prisoners here in Texas, as well as everywhere.

I wanted to inform you of a trend I’ve noticed here in my unit of ignoring our rights when going through disciplinary procedures. When we are being charged with a violation, we are ordered to sign on the place to waive our rights to a 24-hour notice of our hearing. We are also not given an opportunity to circle an option to attend our hearing. Both of these are rights that are being ignored. The cases are then run with no opportunity for us to speak in our own defense. (See documentation.)

Furthermore, when a grievance is written, at both Steps 1 and 2, they are returned with no investigation done and a standard answer. (See documentation.) Note the X’s where I am ordered to sign, the absence of me circling that I did or did not want to attend my hearing, the almost word for word similarity of the Step 1 and 2 answers. Also, on the second report they circled no to show that I declined attending, but I did not circle “no.”

Just thought your readers might want to be aware of what they face. I would still like to receive a Texas Activist Pack as I am using a cellmate’s and he is leaving. Thank you.

TX Step 1 Step 2
Step 1 and Step 2 grievances regarding due process for disciplinary.
Disciplinary reports showing manipulation and forgery, forcing prisoner to waive eir right to a hearing and due process access.
[Release] [Prison Labor] [McConnell Unit] [Texas]

Can't Parole Because No Disciplinaries

Originally, I wrote you being interested in the study. But I have looked up the meaning of “Maoist” it says communism, and the things I have heard about communism hasn’t been in good light. Can you explain to me what a “Maoist” is? Cause you see, I know in fact that dictionaries can be misleading. And further, from what I’m reading of your introduction letter, you are fighting for the right things. Besides, I’m down with fighting against any tyrannical system and political repression.

Texas is truely a state of political repression. They have started by taking tobacco, then porn magz, then stationary, & now action pictures that don’t show any sexual parts. The parole system is monopolizing and slavery oriented. You will find that most parolees have had many major disciplinary cases in the last 6 months to a year & still was allowed to parole. But those prisoners who are working, doing what they are suppose to be doing, and staying out of trouble and case free are mostly being denied parole. Parole denials almost always use the same excuse each time, but the most extraordinary is the ones where prisoners are denied due to so called “manipulating” the system because they’ve remained disciplinary case free for 2-4 years. They say it’s impossible for a prisoner to do that because the system is made so that you will get disciplinaries. What!?!

So, I find that I’m interested in being a part of your movement. Especially concerning the “Indigent Supplies & Mailing limitation.” They have gone from 5 letters and supplies per week to once a month. Talk about repressions.

[Abuse] [McConnell Unit] [Texas]

Texas, McConnell Medical Neglect and No Due Process

Here at the McConnell Unit things have been real tough for us prisoners. In January 2016 an inmate died of an aneurism after being denied medical attention. During the investigation they blamed on the inmate that he refused medical attention. That’s a lie because the inmate is the one who requested medical attention.

I myself on 28 January 2016, at around 1 p.m. all of a sudden almost blacked out while I was in the dayroom. Immediately my whole body broke out in a sweat, fever, trembling, chills, broke out in fever blisters on my fingers, real bad nausea, on my feet broke out in red patches, and my eyesight would get very blurry on and off. I was allowed to go to the infirmary. At the infirmary I was first seen Nurse Vicky Crumbliss, who, after looking at my ears and throat, was very alarmed. She said that they were very very red. It looked like I was coming down with something. But what I’m about to tell you is what’s most shocking of all.

The nurse then tried to convince me that I was a diabetic. When she couldn’t convince of that, she went and brought another nurse by the name of Ms. Snyder. When they couldn’t convince me that I was a diabetic (which until this day I’m not) they went and got the P.A. Echavarry (who’s got a grudge against me because I’ve 2 different complaints with the Texas Board of Examiners in Austin, TX). Well, to make a long, long story short, I was forced to take 500mgs of Metaformin for 4 days because supposedly I was a diabetic. But on February 1 I was seen by another P.A., Ms. Corbett. She took me off the meds. She said, straight out, “you are not diabetic!” She didn’t know what I was sick of but yet refused to do any lab work to determine what I was sick of.

But on February 3 after one of brothers called to complain that I was being denied the proper medical attention I again saw P.A. Echavarry who was very pissed off, and supposedly scheduled me for some lab work (that was not done until this past March 17, 2016). Which is kind of too late now because I’ve gotten better from whatever had me sick which started on January 28 and lasted for almost a month.

On a daily basis prisoners are written up on bogus disciplinary cases. For example: A friend of mine got written up a bogus case that allegedly he painted his cell table and window red and blue. Even though his cell mate spoke to Assistant Warden Putnam and confessed that he had been the one who had painted the table and cell windows, my friend still got written up and punished and they gave him restrictions on commissary, recreation, suspended contact visits, and dropped his line class status.

I helped him file both Step 1 and 2 grievances and we submitted evidence of his cellmate confessing at the disciplinary hearing. Both my friend’s Step 1 and 2 grievances response stated that “there were no due process violations and that punishment was within agency guidelines.”

Can you believe that? Here at the McConnell Unit we need someone to advocate for us. Our civil and constitutional rights are violated. I just helped my friend file a citizen’s complaint. Hopefully that will help get back his line class. I could go, on and on. I thank you, for all of your help!

[Abuse] [Wynne Unit] [Texas]

4 Days of Confinement and Confusion

Can you tell me what the basic needs that a prison must provide you with? I’m asking because I was recently locked up in solitary confinement (PHI) for 4 days without toilet paper, light, soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, or writing material. I had to eat any food with my hands, and I had never had a hearing of any kind. I was not found guilty of any infraction. Nor was I told why I was being locked up in pre-hearing detention/solitary confinement, until the 4 day when I was released from these conditions .

[Medical Care] [Coffield Unit] [Texas]

Medical Abuse in Texas

I’m writing to request information and a guide to challenge TDCJ’s medical co-payment. I am dealing with them trying to retaliate against me by charging me for services that are clearly exempted, i.e. falling from the top bunk and seeking medical attention for my knee and head right afterwards. I’ve been serving time for over 21 years and never really needed to know how to file anything against them properly until now.

I’d also like to ask if you know of anyone, yourself or other organization, that can help me in filing a 1983 lawsuit against TDCJ for their deliberate indifference and negligence in treating me. I wrote a Step 1 grievance on January 28 telling them that I was having trouble getting in and out of the top bunk, having fallen and hurting myself a number of times, and that there was no safe way to climb up (there’s no steps or ladder in these old units) and requesting a bottom bunk or to be moved out to the camp. On February 10 I fell again and wrecked my knee and slammed my head into my fan.

I sought medical attention (for which I’m being charged) and was seen as a walk-in and had an accident report done. Then was told I’d be referred to the provider and be seen in 2-3 days. They refused to give me a bottom bunk then, even though I could barely walk and couldn’t get up into my top bunk. After talking to various rank and being told only medical could give me a bottom bunk (and the nurse said it had to be swollen or broken before they’d do that), and to figure it out, I took a fall that night and spasmed my back, locking it up so that I couldn’t sit up or even walk. Medical assumed I was faking and told me to get up and go back to my cell and again refused me treatment. I was locked up and disciplined for three weeks and subjected to a variety of retaliations.

After I wrote all of this up and sent letters to the Warden and Office of Inspector General, they finally let me see the provider and she ordered x-rays. The x-rays showed my ankle is fractured. Although so far I’m only being treated for one, the other ankle and shin feel the same way. They’ve put me in a walking boot and referred me to Galvaston, and put me in a bottom bunk as far as possible in the pod. So I’m forced to climb up and down four flights of stairs multiple times a day.

I know very little about the law or proper legal issues. I’m trying to learn right now, but could really use some help. I’ve given up asking these writ writers in here cause they can never agree on anything. From what I can find, this is a simple, cut and dry case. I’ve been keeping copies of everything I’ve written so far, but I don’t know what else to do. I don’t care about “getting paid,” I just want them to fix these cells like they’re supposed to. There are 116 units in this system and this is the largest, yet most all the others have steps and handles and tables to get up and down the top bunks. Guys like me who are big (I’m 6’5’’ tall and weigh 280 lbs - I was over 315 lbs last year) are at risk and hurting themselves and it seems like nobody cares.