Call it senseless, call it tragic, call it what you will, it's death suffered again at the hands of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), in Huntsville, Texas.
You would probably think that I was referring to an execution, considering the infamous Execution Chambers TDCJ operates in Huntsville that has contributed to the death of over 400 humans in the last 30 years. However, this death took place at an area located outside another TDCJ prison called the Wynne Unit, that's located about 10 minutes from the Death Chambers which are at the Walls Unit.
On September 24, 2007, inmates John Ray Falk and Jerry Martin, were escorted out the back gate of the Wynne unit to perform their job assignments as members of the "Hoe Squad." this particular Squad received its name from the gardening tool that's assigned to each inmate as they exit the back gate; it is commonly called a "Hoe". Duties of the Hoe Squad are best described as what most people would probably call a "Chain Gang," except in Texas there's no chains. Each inmate is assigned a garden tool and ushered to an isolated field that typically is located not too far from the prison grounds. Once everyone arrives at the field, the inmates are lined up in several rows and forced to chop grass or turn dirt at the pace of a numbered-paced song, that's normally chanted by a few designated inmates.
Depending on the size of the Hoe Squad you will have 6-10 armed officers mounted on horseback to supervise the working inmates. These officers are known for their Ten-Gallon hats that are exclusively made as part of their TDCJ-issued uniform. No other officers in TDCJ are permitted to wear such a Cowboy hat; only the Field Officers. This is one of the many things that separate the officers assigned to work inside the prison and those who work out in what is called the "fields" with the Hoe Squad. Susan Canfield, age 59, was one of the Field Officers on the Wynne Unit, and was assigned to supervise the Hoe Squad that Falk and Martin were assigned to.
Falk was serving a Life Sentence for a 1986 murder conviction. Martin had just completed his 10th year of a 50-year sentence for two counts of attempted Capital Murder. At 10:10am they decided to overpower Officer Canfield and another officer, and took their weapons. After a brief shootout with some other officers, Martin and Falk fled to a nearby parking lot and stole a Huntsville city truck and ran over Officer Canfield who was trying to stop them while they were making their escape. Shortly afterwards Officer Canfield died.
Death is what the TDC has been known for, mainly because of their brutal and extremely active Execution Chamber. However, many people who have had direct experience with TDCJ know that TDCJ has long maintained a culture of death. The inhumane and barbaric conditions TDCJ prides itself on have contributed to the death of many staff people who have worked for TDCJ as well as people who have been held as prisoners within its system. The TDCJ allows their punitive laws and policies to take precedence over rehabilitation for prisoners and safety for everyone, including their officers.
TDCJ directors have no qualms or reservations about placing their officers in high risk situations in order to obtain their goals of dehumanizing, harassing, and severely punishing all prisoners within their system on a daily basis. They feel as if it is their moral obligation to ensure that every day is a living hell for those who have been found guilty of committing a crime in free society, even at the cost of the safety of their own officers.
This is why Falk and Martin were assigned to work in the Hoe Squad despite their lengthy sentences, and Officer Canfield placed in a very risky position that would ultimately cost her the loss of her life. TDCJ spokeswoman Michelle Lyons has made many reports to the media outlets that alludes to the decision that was made, that permitted Falk and Martin to work outside the prison gates in the fields under supervision, was related to Falk and Martin's clean disciplinary records, and their minimum security classification levels. It is Ms. Lyon's intent to give the general public the impression that being assigned to work outside the prison grounds in the Hoe Squad, is some prestigious award allotted to inmates for good behavior, which is absolutely false and extremely misleading.
As a person who has spent the last decade in the TDCJ, and has been assigned to the Hoe Squad, I can positively assure you that the Hoe Squad is the most dreadful and despised job assignment in TDCJ. Upon entering TDCJ I was assigned to work in the Hoe Squad by the TDCJ Classification Committee. I was told by this committee that it's TDCJ's practice to make all incoming inmates start at the bottom (Hoe Squad) and work their way up to a job in food service or a job as a porter. However, the moment that you received a disciplinary case or rub someone the wrong way after working your way up, you will be instantly sent back to the Hoe Squad. The Hoe Squad is one of the many vehicles TDCJ utilizes as a form of punishment for delinquents and to ensure none of their rules are violated.
No one volunteers to work in the Hoe Squad, it's the most brutal job ever! Mr. Falk, who had been in prison for 21 years, and Mr. Martin, who had been in prison over ten years, were not assigned to the Hoe Squad for being model prisoners, they were assigned to the Hoe Squad as a form of punishment, despite what Ms. Lyons would like the public to believe. As a result, Office Canfield was placed in an unsafe environment that allowed these idiots to kill her.
This is a tragic and senseless death at the hands of the TDCJ. This is their culture. The usage of Hoe Squads has long been suspended in every prison system in the United States, except Texas. What did the TDC official expect out of Falk and Martin? TDCJ is just as much responsible for Officer Canfield's death as Falk and Martin.