Fighting Long Term Isolation in Texas Jail
Under the pretense of not allowing any harm to befall me, I was placed in Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg). Texas law states inmates in Ad-Seg must be afforded at least one hour a day, every day, out of their cell for exercise and/or meaningful recreation. I stayed in Ad-Seg for approximately nine months, and at no time was I granted any time out of my cell. I suffered significantly due to this cage. Without exercise my muscles atrophied and now cause me severe pain. My mental state declined greatly, with horrible depression, thoughts of suicide, all around mental anguish.
Well, I wrote several grievances about these deplorable conditions, all of which were denied (of course). Then, I filed a formal complaint against Harris County Jail with Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS). TCJS then responded that the "24 hour" lockdown was appropriate and they will not pursue the issue any further. I took the next step and filed a lawsuit (form 1983) against the jail, the Sheriff of Harris County, the Mayor and Captain over the detention bureau. I stated that they violated my 8th Amendment right (to be free from cruel and unusual punishment) as well as my 14th Amendment right (the right to due process). This civil action was filed 4 April 2012. There have been multiple motions filed both on the plaintiff's side and the defendant's. One mistake got me close to the case being thrown out. It seems inmates in county jails on "detention centers" are not protected under the 8th Amendment. They get to decide who is worthy or not of receiving rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
My case is still in the works, but when I get my day in court in front of a jury I'm confident I will win this lawsuit. I am suing not only for monetary compensation, but I'm trying to help my fellow comrades by asking the judge to declare this 24-hour lockdown illegal and immoral, and order the jail to cease and desist this barbaric practice.
MIM(Prisons) adds: In our ongoing struggle against control units we have seen the dramatic and detrimental health effects of this system of torture for social control. Even the United Nations has condemned long-term solitary confinement in Amerikan prisons. But still prisons and even jails continue to use this practice. This is not surprising since we see these units used as a tool of social control. Prisoners who fight the system in any way, or are perceived as educators or organizers of other prisoners, are isolated to try to limit their work. We have been collecting statistics on control units because there are no public numbers on the scope of this torture. To help with this project write to us for a survey about control units in your state.