Prisoners Report on Conditions in

Texas Prisons

Got a keyboard? Help type articles, letters and study group discussions from prisoners. help out

www.prisoncensorship.info 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.

[Control Units] [Texas] [ULK Issue 6]
expand

False STG validation

I still, to this day, have no idea how they confirmed me as being a part of an STG [Security Threat Group]. I've been in one fight that I got wrote up for and never had a weapon on me at any time. They don't have any kites with my name in them and they won't tell me anything. One day they just said you confirmed a member of an STG and locked me up.

I'm not a part of this group they confirmed me as, and the only way out is to take a G.R.A.D. program, and to do this I have to sign a paper saying yes I am a member, when I'm not. Doing this will put my life in danger as having marked an X to something I never was a part of.

They should change some rules in TDCJs in Texas because these GIs are just confirming people left and right saying they're confirmed when they are not. I'm not the only one who's been done like this.

How can I make them tell me what evidence they're using to confirm me? What could I do to help people like me get out of AdSeg without taking that G.R.A.D. program?

chain
[Control Units] [Texas] [ULK Issue 5]
expand

Segregation in Texas

After five years in administrative segregation with no disciplinary cases of any kind, I went before the State Classification Committee, for the tenth time. Again I was denied going to population at any level of custody. Before I left this hearing I spoke with the chair of the hearing and asked "Will I ever be allowed out of Seg?" He looked back in my file and said "No I don't think you will, or at least not until you're very old."

I served another four years with only two minor disciplinary cases, when I was called in by the Gang Intelligence Officer. I was told that I'd sent a letter to a confirmed gang member, four years ago. There was nothing illegal or gang related in that letter. I never received any notice of confiscation, the stamp was still on the envelope. This G.I. claimed I was a member of an STG (Security Threat Group). I denied this saying: "Actually it's you who believes in State Censorship and theft of the mail, and of course locking men up without hearings." We had several sharp exchanges of words before she had me stand on a wall as she examined my body for Tattoos; I have none. Her last words were that she'd have me tagged.

At this point I really didn't care because after all I'd already been told I'd never be released from Segregation. However it did place me in a somewhat awkward position because I wasn't a member of the alleged group. Upon being returned to my cell I wrote a kite to a member of the alleged group, and later received an answer saying: "Don't sweat it, you'll have a confirmation hearing, they can't tag you for that letter."

I proceeded to write out my defense, all the reasons I was not and could not be a member of the alleged group. However I was never given a confirmation hearing and have never received confirmation papers to this day. The next time I went before the State Classification Committee I was informed that I was a confirmed gang member.

I have now been in segregation for 12 years with three major disciplinary cases and two minor cases. Conditions here are similar to what I've read described by segregated prisoners in other states. Recreation is supposed to be run seven days a week for one hour, but we are very lucky if we get 4 days and usually it is less. If you write grievances your cell will be torn apart and your property broken. The grievance system is set up so that it is impossible for any prisoner to ever win no matter how much evidence you present.

Recently four toilets stopped working - they wouldn't flush. The first one broke down for eleven days before it was fixed. You'd think eleven days without a toilet would be illegal but not here in Texas. Yesterday a man a couple doors down went down sick vomiting blood and he couldn't breath very well, he was able to call the wing officer but she refused to even come see what was going on. It took the whole wing banging to get a Lieutenant to check this prisoner. It only took them one hour and fifteen minutes to respond to a prisoner who is supposed to be watched because they know he is sick.

Now that I'm a confirmed gang member, I am only allowed to see State Classification once per year. I believe that these hearings are illegal because to satisfy due process they are supposed to be meaningful hearings. How can a hearing be meaningful when the committee will tell you "We don't have the authority to release you from Seg. You will have to sign up for GRAD." GRAD is the Gang Renunciation and Disassociation program. Basically it's known as the SNITCH program because you must renounce your membership and supply information on the gang. If you don't have the information they want that's ok, they will supply it and you can sign it.

In response to what we consider illegal rules and confinement, both my cellmate and I have become more and more involved in prison activism. We believe that all segregation is punitive and that non-punitive segregation is a lie. In fact, segregation is one of the most severe forms of punishment and should easily constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

We believe that if segregation is used as punishment for disciplinary violations, that all men should have the opportunity to earn their way out of segregation by their behavior, not by becoming or forced to become state informants.

chain
[Censorship] [Organizing] [Texas]
expand

Repression in Texas

I would like our community of revolutionaries to know what is going on in the confines of Preston Smith Unit. The gang intelligence officer took all of my property, saying that I was trying to recruit a feline pen pal into the ALKQN. When my property was returned to me I was missing people's birthday dates, the names of people getting married, and all my addresses and phone numbers.

The reason that was given was "dangerous contraband." I don't know when such things became "dangerous," none of the people have tried to break me out of prison or smuggle in contraband. I have been incarcerated for a little over eleven years, I have had the gang intelligence take my property several times. At no time have they tried to take my addresses, they have taken pictures, names and numbers of inmates and even raps. At no time have they gone this far.

I have no way to contact anyone that I know and it is infuriating. The gang intelligence has cut me off form society and I still have a little over seven years before I see parole.

The grievance system is a joke, here are people who are chummy with those who we "write up." Do we actually think that we will get results? Of course not. That is a fallacy that only novice prisoners might believe in. The truth of the matter is, the injustice system gets away with so much due to those who are outside of it, not doing anything to assist those who are inside.

This [Under Lock and Key] is a forum, sort of a think thank. We know far more collectively than we do individually. All that needs to be done is to set the stage for a movement. That's why they really took all my addresses, they fear my mind and power to build.

It is time to unify into one, we must set objectives that we reach on a deadline. How beautiful it would be to have 7,000 people call and write letters about one issue at a time.

chain
[Medical Care] [Texas] [ULK Issue 5]
expand

Medical neglect in Texas is killing prisoners

I wanted to write and tell you about some of the things that we deal with in this plantation. One of the most serious and blatant violations we deal with is with basic medical services. I have witnessed a prisoner who had an aneurysm that led to a massive stroke. The man went to the person on duty and told him what was going on, first they told him they were busy. When they finally did see him they told him it was gas and go back to his cell. On the way back he had a seizure and they finally got him to the hospital. In less than one week they sent him back and now he is not coherent and the whole left side of his body, including his face, is paralyzed. He can't even walk by himself or feed himself and they put him right back in population.

I've seen 3 people die here because of lack of medical treatment. There was a guy in the same dorm with me who had a history of heart problems. He went to the desk and told the officer on duty what was wrong, that he was having bad chest pains, and the office got medical to give him some pepto and tell him to go back. He came back a while later and told the officer he was still having chest pain so they sent him to the sergeant who told him "I don't care if you die, get out of my face and go to your bunk before I lock you up," The next count time he was found in his bunk dead from a massive heart attack. What makes me so sick is the fact that nothing was done to the officer. What kind of world is this that people charged with authority have such blatant disregard for human life?

This is just a very small part of what goes on in this country where people can invade a country and kill thousands of people and say "oh sorry, we thought you had some bombs" and the public just blindly follows along and it all boils down to this money and greed and people are so wrapped up in their own self-interest. People just accept anything as long as it doesn't affect them. The mentality of this government is they don't care who gets killed or who suffers as long as they get what they want. So how much money is enough? How much oil is enough? How many people need to die before people say screw this, we are tired of being pawns in your game, and stand up and fight?

MIM(Prisons) adds: We agree with this comrade's analysis that the Amerikan public is wrapped up in their own self-interest. This economic interest is served by foreign invasions and the criminal injustice system. Because of this, we would not call these people "pawns" in the game of imperialism, as that implies they are being duped when in fact they are just lining up with their economic interests. Even as the Amerikan economy suffers one of the inevitable crises of capitalism that will cost the public millions of dollars and many people's homes, Amerikans sit at home content to pick between one imperialist president or another. This is why it is so important to focus on the principal contradiction between the imperialists and oppressed nations, both within u.s. borders and around the world. We need to ally with those who truly have an interest in this fight and not sit around hoping that the white Amerikan citizens are going to wake up and fight the system that makes them rich.

chain
[Control Units] [Texas]
expand

Unlock the Box - Ad-Seg in Texas

Our control units here in Texas were called High Security Buildings, now they're being called (at least on this unit) ECB. There are only five units that have these buildings:

  • Allred Unit, 2101 FM 369 N, Iowa Park, TX 76367
  • Bill Clements Unit, 9601 Spur 591, Amarillo, TX 79107
  • Estelle Unit, 264 FM 3478, Huntsville, TX 77320
  • McConnell Unit, 3001 S Emily Dr, Beeville, TX 78102
  • Smith Unit, 1313 CR 19, Lamesa, TX 79331

I've been in the High Security Building here on the Clements Unit. There are ten pods on the building with about 800 to 1000 housed on the building. With the exception of the Smith Unit, the other four units above have at least 2000 prisoners. The Clements Unit where I am has close to 500 prisoners alone.

This high security building here houses a majority of Black and Latino prisoners, most white prisoners are at the highest level in Ad-Seg. Out of the ten pods, three are close custody and the rest are for Ad-Seg prisoners.

From the prisoner's grapevine that's why they changed the name of High Security to ECB, because prisoners were put in there for getting bullshit disciplinary cases. And it hasn't changed.

The Bill Clements prison opened in 1990, the High Sec bldg opened in June 2000 and I was a prisoner who was put there then. The building hasn't expanded because taxpayers won't foot the bill to build new prisons here in Texas.

What I would like to add lastly about this HSB is the way classification houses offenders. You have three levels in Ad-Seg, three being the lowest and one the highest. Now guess what prisoners compromise these levels...yeah the level 1 Ad-Seg is filled with white prisoners at a 80% rate on the five level 1 pods and it flips to 80% of Blacks at level 3.

Until a few years ago the parole board didn't allow prisoners who were in Ad-Seg to make parole. This changed when classification found that level 1 housed so many eligible white prisoners. The administration allows white prisoners to stay and live in segregation so they can make parole because most are in some Aryan family. Certain Mexican prisoners have this same privilege but Black prisoners who haven't received disciplinary cases in a long while must go back to general population.

chain
chain
[Censorship] [Texas]
expand

Censorship at Texas Estelle Unit

This brief letter is not a complaint but only to raise my voice against the injustice I'm experiencing here at the Estelle High Security Unit.

I understand the implications pursuant to Correspondence Rules BP-03.91, of which each out-going and in-coming letter to and from offenders are indeed subject to inspection and if such letter is denied then the offender and the sender will be provided a Correspondence Denial Form within seventy-two hours of rejection. This is designed to go into detail informing the offender of the appropriate cause and the evidence relied upon for this denial, and whether he intends to appeal. If he does not wish to appeal, then he has the choice either to have the letter destroyed or sent back to the sender at the offender's expense. This rule, policy or procedure is not being followed.

As stated, there is no question a uniform procedure for denying out-going and in-coming mail is needed. I don't have a problem with the policy. I have a problem with the process. The BP-03.91 policy is a complete method of procedures, which establish a way of doing things and each procedure shall be related in accordance to policy.

What the mailroom staff (Office of Intelligence) are doing is shifting/switching procedure from one day to the next to cover whatever actions they've taken. In a very plain term, its unfair and totally inappropriate to shift or switch procedures in midstream without giving prior warning to offenders. How can any offender follow rules which constantly change without any notice? Rules, policies and procedures that change without notice confuse me as well as other offenders.

This policy is vague and ambiguous, leaving major openings for misinterpretation and giving unreasonable discretionary power to unit Gang Intelligence Officers that TDCJ-ID has left largely unchecked and unquestioned and untrained in key areas of the policy which, in return, causes animosity towards myself and other offenders. They use these misinterpretations to vastly exaggerate accounts of supposed gang-related information, and to justify denial of out-going mail. When mail is denied it often takes weeks before an offender is notified or if the correspondence is not denied it is sent out weeks later. All this is under the guise of security.

If the G.I. (reader) decides my letter contains dangerous content the letter will automatically be denied. How these readers define such content, and who plays a role in making that determination are questions without clear answers. And while such denials require written notification, in practice that rarely happens.

A review of the process exposes a policy in which sections of the policy either contradict each other or are shifted from one day to the next so that no one is responsible. The mailroom, the G.I. and/or Wing officer or even other offenders have access to our mail. The policy isn't even uniformly applied. These type of standard procedures will continue to exist because the mailroom staff insists on denying out-going mail without providing a written notice and without returning back offender's stamped envelopes.

For over two years on this unit, when out-going mail was denied the offender was informed and his stamped envelopes were confiscated. Only after the mailroom staff became so sloppy that they no longer even passed out any denial forms were there enough questions raised that it was discovered that the offender was supposed to receive his stamped envelope back, how nice! However, if questioned about where the thousands of stolen or wrongly confiscated stamps when to the past two years, there is no answer. In fact, any offender ho dares to ask will be retaliated against. Even when caught, the mailroom staff will deny that their conduct was unlawful in any respect.

Enclosed in this letter are grievance step one and two proof of my effort to remedied the problem but as you can see their response is always the same "...The Estelle Unit mailroom is processing all incoming and outgoing correspondence in accordance to BP-03.91. No further action is warranted..." I have other grievances that consist of the same issues but were handled with the same answer.

chain
[Medical Care] [Texas]
expand

Medical malpractice in Texas

The U.S. Justice Department says there are 33% of disabled people in prison. Texas closed mental health hospitals and a lot of disabled people are now housed in prison.

A disabled person makes $9,000 a year to live on the streets, but TDC makes $32,000 a year to house the same person. In TDC there is no protection for disabled people and most can’t write or think properly to protect themselves from rape, extortion, beatings and mistreatment from staff and medical care.

This is one case out of many that I am trying to bring to light. I was being overdosed at the pill window [where they dispense medicine in the prison]. The pill window staff would give me an odd number of pills repeatedly and when asked why, the reply would be “Take your meds or receive a disciplinary case.” Over the course of this three and a half years, my blood work has come back toxic three times. While this was going on I had over 30 seizures and I started having blackouts. I did not receive treatment for years.

When I first learned that I was being overdosed I told the nurse. The reply was “we don’t do that” so I wrote emergency grievances but they were all kicked out. I requested help from the doctor and he said “he’s crazy” and sent me to the mental health department. Then TDC put me to work while I was still unstable from seizures. I had three seizures at work and they said it was a security issue and put me back to work in the hot kitchen where I had 4 more seizures.

Eventually I talked to a nurse who stopped the overdose of one of my drugs. But the medical department continued to cover up the overdose while the overdose of another drug was still going on. I told the nurse manager that I needed my medical records to show the doctor to stop the seizures and blackouts. She said “we don’t keep those records” then added “some of your records are not for you to see.” Then she told me “get a lawyer.” When my lawyer finally was able to get my medical records, I found that the overdose was deleted from my records. The lawyer asked the nurse manager about this and was told this was a mistake and sent the records again. But the records were not corrected. After repeated appeals and requests for my full records, on the fifth try I got a set of records that show them overdosing me 11 times, but the rest of the dates were changed.

After 2 years I wrote to Senator John Whitmire and to the Texas Medical Board. The Senator faxed a medical release to get my medical records and within two weeks the doctor called me in and asked me what was wrong. I told him “seizures, blackouts, confusion, and I could not eat.” He asked how long and I told him I had been reporting all this for the past two years. He said he would send me to a neurologist.

Then my letter from the Texas Medical Board came and the response said “the doctor is now under investigation for what he has done and now his case is in the director of enforcement.”

My last seizure was August 2007 and I was sent to the emergency room. There I weighed 148 pounds, that is a loss of 52 pounds from this treatment. My appointment with a neurologist showed neurological problems. So I filed a case in federal court and was denied counsel. Now I must represent myself.

This is going on in prison. There was a man who died August 9, 2007 from seizures from the same treatment I was getting. If they have the ability to change my records, then they will change anyone's and get away with it.

chain
[Control Units] [Texas]
expand

Unlock the Box - Control Units in Texas

I'm an Ad-Seg prisoner here in the Texas Department of Corruptions, death valley of dry bones. I'm housed in what was originally called Super Seg due to the fact that no one ever has to leave the cell for things such as going to chow and showering. It's all done in the cell, along with the restroom. We too are deprived of virtually all human contact and mental stimuli. We are housed alone and remain in our cells 23 hours a day 3 days a week, and 24 hours a day the other 4. The only access to seeing day light is when we go to rec, because there's no windows. We have no access to educational, vocational, or other rehabilitative programs and provided with only limited access to legal material and to the general library.

This Control Unit was first called Super Seg because it was first designed to house Ad-Seg prisoners who fell under the maximum security status. There's only about 7 or 8 of these types of units in the system. After the oppressors saw how effective the controlled units were they decided to house Close Custody prisoners back here as well, since this would keep the oppressors from having to deal with the undesirable prisoners, plus it would keep them locked down. But in order to house close custody prisoners two to a cell that was designed to house segregated prisoners, they had to change the name, thus the name High Security (Expansion Cell Blocks). While the seg populations racial makeup is about 40% white, 40% Latino and 20% Black, the close custody population is about 60% Black, 30% Latino and 10% white.

chain
[Control Units] [Texas]
expand

Unlock the Box survey

Concerning the Control Units, the designated cells are called Administrative Segregation. Depending on who the Warden, Major, and other low ranking supervisors are, all or different types of abuses take place within these housing areas. Ranging from unlawful denial of special privileges and rights, to physical abuse and food tampering. You are confined to these cells 22 or more hours a day and eat inside the cell, limited recreation, and virtually no programs for prisoners. It can be a very depressing and non-rehabilitative atmosphere. Over half of Texas Prisons house inmates in Administrative Segregation. And the mistreatment varies, so I will only speak on what unites I know of from experience.

Hughes Unit, Route 2 Box 4400, Gatesville, TX 76597. I was housed in Ad Seg from 10/2003 until 03/2008. There are approximately 500 beds in these buildings. One prisoner per cell/bed. The whole unit does not fall under the definition, only "12 Bldg" is where Ad Seg prisoners are confined, controlled and monitored daily. The racial makeup of the population is majority Hispanic, then Black, then white. Most prisoners are placed in Ad Seg for being part of a Security Threat Group, or assault towards staff and prisoners. Most situations aren't as serious as the administration makes it seem. These Control Units began opening in the late 80s and early 90s, and four of them were expanded and opened in 1999, adding 660 cells labeled as "High Security." I have no knowledge whether the state plans to open any others. Here are the addresses to the other three units that have been expanded:
Allred Unit, 2101 FM 369 North, Iowa Park, TX 76367
Lewis Unit, PO Box 9000, Woodville, TX 75990
Smith Unit, HCR7, Box 187A, Lamesa, TX 79331

Prior to being transfered from the Huges Unit in March 2008, there were several prisoners complaining about food tampering in 12 Bldg. The tampering didn't start until 2006. The substance being used attacked the immune system, causing severe headaches and drowsiness, heart trouble, high blood pressure, loss of energy, etc. I noticed the difference in my body and energy level once I got transferred and the food got out of my system.

chain