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[Middle East] [ULK Issue 40]
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The Inspiration Behind the Palestine Petition

Like many other people in here, as I was watching the situation in Gaza steadily worsen, so did my anger. One day I was nose-deep in a Che Guevara book with my TV on CNN in the background when breaking news of live footage of Israeli bombs targeting civilians came in. After a few minutes of cursing the United Nations, I$rael and the United $tates, I calmed down feeling somewhat demoralized at the fact that there was nothing I could do. Defeated, I sat back down and tried to temporarily put out of my head what I had just seen.

I dove back into the Che book when I immediately got my orders from "the commandante" himself, or his ex-wife rather. There is a chapter in the book about Che's time in Guatemala during his formative years and his work with the Arbenz government when the U.$.-backed coup took place and the country was in chaos. Revolutionaries and other activists were in the process of fleeing the country and hiding in various Latin American embassies. Che and his soon-to-be wife were among the last to seek shelter from the political repression, instead opting to continue their work in semi-underground fashion. Che's partner Hilda Gadea was in a somewhat tight bind at the time where her actions and movements were both limited and scrutinized by the new government. She was not able to do everything she wanted to do but she was at least able to start a petition denouncing the coup. Upon reading this I had something of a eureka moment and knew what I had to do, or what I could do.

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[Middle East] [California]
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Palestine Petition Gains Much Support in California Prison

In August 2014, United Struggle from Within launched a petition campaign against the I$raeli settler state and to support the people of Palestine against the recent violent attacks. A petition was circulated to prisoners in many states and this is a report back from one persyn's efforts to collect signatures.

I was surprised to get as many signatures as I did, and most prisoners didn't have to hear much more than the basic thrust of the document to know that they wanted to sign. I offered everyone the petition to read for themselves so that they could be sure of what they were signing. For most people I broke the document down into three points. The first was simple opposition to the purposeful targeting of civilians by I$rael. Indeed most of the people who signed had very strong feelings about seeing wimmin and children being killed. The second point was our agreement that Israel's bombing of Gaza had to stop. The third was that even as so-called "thugs and criminalsm," even we know there are lines to be drawn in combat, and civilian deaths are a big no no. Therefore all signatories were united on one basic premise: no to the killing of wimmin and children.

Most prisoners quickly signed after hearing what I had to say, while two people just refused to sign. I was actually surprised since they were both "born again Christians" and part of the social base I'd thought would've been easiest to organize. One of them said he was currently in the process of reading something on that topic and would get back at me once he was thoroughly informed. I told him that I had already outlined everything he needed to know, but still he was hesitant. I then went into explaining the basics of the document but still he was unsure. He also seemed nervous for some reason at which point I thanked him and walked away.

The second "Christian" is a Vietnam veteran so I anticipated his hesitance but thought his so-called spiritually would transcend the political. Instead he quickly put on a look of disgust and kindly declined. I tried pushing him some based on his religious beliefs but still looking annoyed he once again declined, instead telling me that he would pray for the wimmin and children of Gaza but would not sign the petition. Of course I had some choice words for his bombastic air of superiority as he is one of those Christians who walks around with bible in hand, head to the sky as if he's superior or has reached some type of Nirvana to which none of us are privy; yet he cannot sign the petition.

Then there was someone else, another older gentleman who expressed something of shock and irritability at what I was proposing. Who was I to organize a petition for Palestine? And why should he sign it if no Amerikan lives where involved? I recited my script and basic points of unity to which he was still "confused." At this point I began to sense something of a chauvinist attitude emanating from his line of questioning. Finally I told him that if he didn't want to sign then that was fine as he was beginning to take up too much of my time.

But now he was the one who didn't want to let me go. He said he was only trying to understand my motivations. He said that during Hurricane Katrina he saw no petitions to help the people of New Orleans, that America has its own problems and that we should focus on that first instead of organizing for Palestine. Finally, he caught me off guard when he cited the many wars in Africa currently taking place and why wasn't I organizing for that? I was left speechless for about a second or two but then quickly recovered by telling him that he was right and that was a good point he made about Africa. I told him that if he wanted we could both put something together and start a petition. He quickly refused and then retreated to his second line of defense. He didn't understand the point of the petition. He said it wasn't gonna solve anything, therefore what was the point? I told him that he was wrong and that the purpose of the petition was to help build public awareness of the atrocities and to help build public opinion so as to hopefully put additional pressure on Israel. Furthermore if people on the streets who have the freedom and liberty to organize for Palestine saw that prisoners were circulating and signing a petition for Palestine then perhaps they'd be moved to do more.

He disagreed and instead proposed that I initiate a fundraiser/food drive here in which we can get a outside vendor to sponsor us and all money collected from prisoners could go to Palestine. (Various self-help groups here such as AA, NA, Anger Management, etc. have raised funds in the past thru these fundraisers with proceeds going to Locks of Love, cancer research, etc). I told him that we needed the administration's permission for such a drive and that they would never sanction us sending money to Palestine since they were a tool of the state. He vehemently disagreed.

He then went back to his point about Africa, and why did I choose Palestine over Africa? He said the only reason I chose Palestine was because I too was Middle-Eastern. I told him I was not, and he was more confused. I then told him that Palestine is a flash point on an international level compared to the civil wars in Africa and thereby more people would be easier to organize around this platform. I once again offered to work with him on an Africa project. He again refused. By this time I again offered to take my petition somewhere else but after a little more struggle he begrudgingly signed. I told him that if he was still pessimistic about it that I didn't need his signature as I wanted everyone's signature to be sincere, but he said he was good and I accepted.

As the day went on I got more signatures and had a couple interesting political conversations as a result. You can be sure that everyone who signed did so out of a sense of injustice in Palestine. My small petition drive was a good learning experience and helped me exercise my political speaking abilities.

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[Control Units] [Montana State Prison] [Montana] [ULK Issue 40]
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Montana Shuts Down SHU, Reopens Under a New Name

The Montana prison suppression machine has pulled the wool over the eyes of several prisoner advocacy groups by pretending to disband their security housing unit (SHU) program. It's not actually gone, it's just been given a shiny new title. It's now known as LH1 - AdSeg and LHII - Max population or step down program.

The SHU program started in Montana State Prison (MSP) in approximately 2004-2005, designed to hold validated gang members or violent prisoners deemed security threats. Unfortunately in Montana the only requirement for validation is to associate with suspicious prisoners or interact with known gang members. No activity is required to validate you. Anyone who disagrees with a corrections officer, files grievances, or otherwise remotely questions the capitalist authority is deemed a security risk.

MSP's favorite use of control units is for a growing number of mentally ill prisoners. MSP has no resources to house these prisoners separately so they use long term isolation, trying to induce forced sumission over them.

The LHII step down program is creating jobs for high risk prisoners who would normally never have the opportunity to earn a few dollars, but at the cost of long term isolation for most prisoners who are only here because they questioned policy, filed grievances, refused a pig's order, or are scared by prison life. This does not make for a prisoner who will fare well once turned back to population or society.

So MSP has once again fixed nothing, but it might have fooled a few people with the name change. We must expose the new system for what it is: a renaming of the same long term isolation.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We need prisoners to help us keep our statistics on control units across the country up to date. We estimate over 100,000 long term isolation units exist in the United $tates, but this data is incomplete for many states. If you know about a control unit in your state, write to us for a control unit survey so that you can help us collect this data on torture in Amerikan prisons.

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[Abuse] [Medical Care] [California State Prison, San Quentin] [California]
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Bringing the Truth to Light: The Result of Sunlight Deprivation at San Quentin

A recent study concluded that even a moderate deficiency of vitamin D results in a 53% increased chance of developing dementia. The most abundant source of vitamin D on earth comes from a chemical reaction that occurs naturally when our skin is exposed to direct sunlight.

Sunny California's torture units feature dog run style walk-in closets called "walk alone" or "small management yards" (SMY). These usually consist of four solid walls and a plexiglass or metal grating for a roof, both of which obstruct sunlight. Depending on the time of day, a prisoner may not get any direct sunlight at all.

The SMY torture cages designed for Grade A and B death row prisoners warehoused in San Quentin's East Block (SHU II D.R.) are especially cruel and unusual. Unlike the torture cages in the SHU III D.R. (The Adjustment Center) which are completely exposed to the elements with no protection whatsoever, the SHU II D.R. torture cages have a corrugated steel cover over 1/4 of its top and every one of these 40 or so cages are under a gigantic modified metal pavilion which could be comparable to a rusted metal circus tent. The only direct sunlight penetrating this bizarre big top of the CDCr circus pierces through rust holes in the massive metal canopy.

True to form, California's mad scientists conducting the world's most infamous death penalty experiment in numerous SHUs across the sunshine state prefer their own blend of pharmaceutical cocktails to solve the problems they themselves are mass producing. CDCr's "chemical solution" aims to obscure and/or delay known side effects of this particular experiment which subjects humans to sunlight deprivation torture indefinitely. CDCr prescribes Vitamin D/Calcium supplements and "psych meds."

Who will dare to fathom the impact this state-sanctioned torture has on prisoners in the United $tates, and on the prison system's medical and mental health costs. This is a system already overloaded and still under federal receivership.

The bottom line is this is where getting involved in the grievance campaign would be a wise choice. Also keep in mind that no matter what your current classification is, it's always subject to change. Just being in a California control unit is all it takes to become a test subject in this already out of control experiment. Don't think you are somehow immune to this twisted chemical warfare.

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[Censorship] [State Correctional Institution Benner] [Pennsylvania]
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Publication Discrimination

It's amazing how some of these institutions specifically discriminate against Black publications from entering into their prisons, stating their writings are offensive and inappropriate to prison standards. This is how prejudice and bias their views are when it comes to Black literature.

I received a notice from the Incoming Publication Review Committee at SCI-Benner, stating that the Movement Newsletter is being denied. They indicated that three of its pages advocated violence, guerrilla warfare against the government, assist in criminal activity related to prison misconduct, and its material is racially motivated that could cause a threat to inmates, staff, and security in the prison.

This accusation is not only a derogatory attack on Black publications, but also towards Blacks in general. They have the audacity to link a race of people to a criminal behavior as though it's inbred in them.

The Black community frowns on criminal activities, as well as violence, much more so than anyone else because many are personally affected by it one-way or the other. And for anyone to imply they abet it, is in a state of illusion, because many of them are unfortunate victims of crime, not participants.

Most of the Black publications are structured to educate readers on past, and current events, give encouragement to those in despair, and to let the community know that they are not forgotten. We're fortunate to have a newsletter of sure caliber as the Movement that's fearless, judicious, and full of profound data that's reliable. Newsletters such as the Movement, Graterfriends, Fortune Society, Innocence Denied, and many others that give a voice to those whose voices have been disregarded. They advocate justice for those who have been denied it, and advocate humane treatment to those men and women in captivity.

It is judged inappropriate for Black publications to denounce racial discrimination, corruption, oppression, hypocrisy, injustice, and whatever else infringe on the rights of others. Are they permitted to execute their so-called Constitutional rights under the First Amendment to freedom of speech, which includes the rights to criticize the government or state officials? Is censorship in effect or is it just my imagination?


MIM(Prisons) responds: The Movement is a newsletter published by the Human Rights Coalition (HRC), which describes itself as: "HRC’s quarterly news magazine, The Movement, is a powerful source in public awareness that serves not only to tie prisoners to the outside world, but also to tie the public into prison issues. It represents the voices, faces, causes, and ideas of prisoner families and prisoners themselves." This is not even a New Afrikan publication, except in that it covers prison issues and a disproportionate number of prisoners of the United $tates are New Afrikan.

MIM(Prisons) is not surprised to see this censorship because we face constant problems with censorship of Under Lock & Key in prisons across the country. Prisons make up bogus reasons to deny ULK as a threat to security because of our work educating and organizing prisoners. Any publication that reports honestly on the Amerikan criminal injustice system is going to include coverage of national oppression and the struggles of New Afrikans and [email protected] in particular. This reporting and organizing work is seen as a threat to the prisons, but we must fight for our right to this legal form of education.

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[Abuse] [Texas] [ULK Issue 40]
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Fighting Deadly Texas Heat Through the Legal System

Between the years 2007 and 2011, 13 prisoners died from the heat in Texas prisons. Two wrongful death lawsuits have been filed in a Galveston Federal Court accusing Texas prison officials of negligence in the deaths.

Scott Medock, an attorney for the Austin based Texas Civil Rights Project, which filed the suits with Austin attorney Jeff Edwards, called some east Texas prisons "death traps."

The Constitution does not require prisons to be maintained at a comfortable temperature. However, if there is extreme heat or cold, prisoners' Constitutional rights are affected. Extreme heat can violate the Constitution. Refer to: Brock v. Warren county 713 F. Supp 238 (E.D. Tenn. 1989) - Maddison County Jail Inmates v. Thompson 773 F. 2d 834, 838-39 (7th cir. 1985) - Hamilton v. Love 328 F. Supp 1182, 1190 (E.D. Ark. 1971).

Prisoners with heat restrictions are in "grave danger" of serious injury and possible death. To win a Section 1983 lawsuit you must show that staff officials acted with "deliberate indifference" to your health risk. "Deliberate indifference" exists when an official knows about a serious danger to a prisoner and yet is "indifferent" (unconcerned, uncaring) to that danger. You can use the fact that the conditions were "longstanding, pervasive, well-documented, and/or expressly noted" by officials in the past to prove indifference. It is enough that the official acted or failed to act despite his/her knowledge of a substantial risk of serious harm. There are several kinds of circumstantial evidence that you can use to prove an official's deliberate indifference. These include copies of grievances and appeals, copies of informal notes and letters (I-60s) that you wrote to officials, and you can explain in a declaration exactly when and how you told officials about risk in prison.

As a general rule, officials may not refuse to respond to a substantial risk of serious harm on the grounds that it would be too expensive to fix it. Cost is not a defense to Constitutional liability.

The Eighth Amendment to the U.$. Constitution, among other things, protects convicted prisoners against cruel and unusual punishment. The conditions of confinement must not involve the wanton and unnecessary infliction of pain, nor may they be grossly disproportionate to the severity of the crime warranting imprisonment (Rhodes v. Chapman 452 US. 337, 347, 69 L.Ed. 2d 59, 101 S. Ct 2392 (1981).) Whether conditions of confinement are cruel and unusual must be determined from the contemporary standards of civilized decency that currently prevail in society. At a minimum, the Constitution requires the state to provide minimally adequate living space that includes reasonably adequate ventilation, sanitation, bedding, hygienic materials and utilities (Grubbs v. Bradley, 552 F. Supp 1052, 1122 (M.D. Tenn. 1981).) Constitutionally adequate housing is not denied simply by uncomfortable temperatures inside cells, "unless it is shown that the situation endangers inmates health" (Smith v. Sullivan, 553 F. 2d 373, 381 (5th Cir 1977).) TDCJ may be held liable under Section 1983 if deprivation of prisoners' Constitutional rights were the result of "custom" or "policy" (Monell v. New York City Department of Social Services, 463 US 658, 56 L. Ed. 2d 611, 98 S.Ct. 2018 (1978)).

Texas prison conditions do not meet Constitutional standards!


MIM(Prisons) adds: We print this caselaw for prisoners to use in filing grievances against the dangerous heat conditions in Texas. We have received many reports on the battle against this health risk. Get involved in this fight, file grievances, document the situation, and write to us for the Texas grievance guide.

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[United Front] [Organizing] [Militarism] [Colorado]
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Building Unity Against Militarized Guards

Picture a 6-man goon squad, in full riot gear with a gun, a barrel of tear gas, and an electric riot shield. And now realize that this tactic is used on us prisoners any time we get out of line for any reason. This particular incident happened over a flooded cell, broken state TV, and covered window. Not only was a comrade gassed, the pigs shot him two times with 30mm rubber bullets at close range.

What we're seeing first hand is the militarization of prison guards, but it's also an attack upon our psyche. The gas, the riot gear, and the shock shield are all visual reminders of the pigs' control and what is supposed to result in our subservience. This action can take place at any time the pigs feel a threat to the order of the prison. What threats could we possibly cause behind a steel door in the presence of 6 fully armored and armed guards? When these situations happen the pigs turn off the vents so when they get gassed we taste it too.

I often spend long hours thinking about why such an awful use of force is ued for something so benign. In MIM Theory 5 it is said that one can't go on increasingly repressed by fascism forever. And while premature armed struggle is a hindrance, doing nothing at all is even more detrimental.

We spend more time fighting over small and insignificant bullshit, and we let the pigs take advantage of our disorganization. We fill our time checking our paperwork or fighting petty beefs, and the more we do this, the more important it becomes, until eventually it becomes a belief system that causes our own subservience. We need to look past what the DAs tell us and pay attention to what is happening right now.

There are many prisoners who love the United $tates, those who do not understand the evil it causes abroad, nor domestic slavery it's done here. For those who are struggling, keep engaged. It's our duty to fight injustice and racism, and unite. Unity is a deep concept. It's a constant struggle to help someone who's not from your own and it means reaching out being the first one to overlook what keeps us at one another and lets the pigs run all over our rights. If you're not doing something you're feeding the problem. Educate, teach, unite, fight back.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade underscores some important points that are part of the United Front for Peace in Prison. First there is the principle of Peace; we fight for peace while the prison guards stir up and perpetuate violence. "We organize to end the needless conflicts and violence within the U.$. prison environment. The oppressors use divide and conquer strategies so that we fight each other instead of them. We will stand together and defend ourselves from oppression."

Second there is the principle of unity; we must build unity even when it means taking the first step to overlook differences. "We strive to unite with those facing the same struggles as us for our common interests. To maintain unity we have to keep an open line of networking and communication, and ensure we address any situation with true facts. This is needed because of how the pigs utilize tactics such as rumors, snitches and fake communications to divide and keep division among the oppressed. The pigs see the end of their control within our unity."

We call on all individuals and organizations to study the United Front for Peace in Prisons Statement of Principles, join the UFPP, and build unity in your prison.

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[Control Units] [Snake River Correctional Institution] [Oregon]
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Oregon Long Term Program Expanded

This is a continuation of a letter I wrote you in July about the Long Term (LT) scam here in the Oregon Drpartment of Corrections. Since that letter there have been some changes in here. For starters, these pigs' schemes worked: they were given authorization to expand the LT program by an additional 24 cells. So they opened up another Intensive Management Unit (IMU) section as LT and are currently using the top tier of that section (12 cells) as LT status. They'll eventually fill up every cell in that section as LT, then most likely ask for another extension.

One of the counselors also mentioned that they stopped using the custody status "Long Term" and are now calling it "Retain Custody Level 5." They can call shit by any other name and it's still gonna smell the same.

Additionally, a not-very-well-thought-out lawsuit was partially won recently against IMU resulting in a 90-day review of all IMU and LT status prisoners. Upon review Inmate Program Committee (IPC) is either supposed to decide to keep us in IMU, release us to mainline, or place us in alternative housing (which will most likely be LT or Ad-Seg). However, very few prisoners were released from IMU and 2 Long Termers got released. That's nothing to celebrate about when the release of the 2 is weighed against the expansion of 24 cells.

Most prisoners never even get a response about the review, and they're prime candidates for release due to lack of write-ups or any misconduct while in IMU or LT. The reviews therefore become a convenience for these pigs: when they need the room for more IMU intakes, they'll release someone to open that cell. It also sets the stage for prejudice and discrimination. If for any reason they don't like us they can simply deny any change to our status without ever giving a reason why: maybe they don't like the way we look, our skin art, who we're accused of associating with, maybe we've had confrontations with the piglets and counselors, or maybe even filed grievances and lawsuits. Without ever needing to say why, they can simply deny us, and conveniently declare to have given us our due process.

I will be drafting up a petition to challenge the schemes, but I still don't feel it's right for us to individually challenge this after the fact that we've been placed in these mental torture chambers. So I will be contacting activist groups to see if they can help to abolish this altogether. I got bigger plans in mind which I'll share once I get the petitions prepared. It'll require taking this to the courts, attempting to seek justice in the imperialistic playground of jesters and hypocrites.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We agree with this comrade that reforming any system of control units to allow a few people to get out is not going to change the system. We must demand that all long-term isolation units be shut down. Of course this is still just a small part of the criminal injustice system that we are fighting to dismantle, but it is an important part because it is used to target politically active and conscious comrades, punishing them for their work fighting abuse and isolating them from influencing other prisoners.

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[Middleton Unit] [Texas]
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Inadequate Water in Texas Oven

My fellow comrades, with the heat climbing in the 100s here in Texas our only hope for relief is an early winter. Here at the John Middleton Unit in Abilene, Texas we are forced to live in metal sheds which have 54 prisoners per pod. We are given 20 gallons of cool water twice in a 24 hour period. Once at 6am and once at 6pm. The water lasts about 1 hour at most. The lines are long as are the tempers short, which of course equals disasters. Tempers flare, arguments explode and fights are the result of being stored in these oven boxes left to bake.

As of a result of many heat-related deaths of prisoners throughout Texas I believe change is forthcoming. Remember Texas prisons are behind in times so change will eventually happen. In the meantime we prisoners must deal with these horrific conditions and find a way to survive. But survive we will. Keep writing and keep your head up.


MIM(Prisons) responds: As another prisoner reported recently, the University of Texas Human Rights Clinic recently released a report concluding conditions inside Texas prisons in the summer violate the Eighth's Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Many are involved in the fight against this dangerous situation. We echo this comrade's call to all prisoners to keep documenting the conditions, and keep fighting. We need to build unity around these battles for reforms, while we educate folks about the criminal injustice system as a whole and its role as a tool of social control for the imperialists. We can not only win reforms, but we can build a broader movement to challenge the entire system.

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[Abuse] [Boyd Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 40]
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Texas Prisoner Dies After Pleas for Help are Ignored

On 20 June 2014 from 7pm to 9:30pm, 65-year-old Juan Nave pleaded with CO Justin Jernigan for cold water, for medical staff, and to be let out his cell to get some cool air from the dayroom fans because he didn't have a fan in his cell and it was about 100 degrees in our cells. My cell is nearby so I listened as Mr. Nave told to the unconcerned Officer Jernigan he was really ill and needed medical attention. I also attempted to request water and to be let out of my dangerously heated cell for a little cool down time, and CO Jernigan said, "I'm hot too, handle it like me," and he walked away with no consideration for our health or life. Around 9:30pm was the last time I heard Mr. Nave beg Officer Jernigan for help only to be ignored again. At 10pm Jernigan went home and CO Brake took his place. It wasn't until CO Brake was doing a bed count around 1:30am that he discovered Juan Nave was dead.

Both Wardens, the Major and Captain were there within 30 minutes. They called their own medical examiner to rule the death a heart attack, but I knew it was heat that caused Mr. Nave's death. I asked the shift supervisor Lt. Ruth if they were going to get statements from us witnessing prisoners. Lt. Ruth said they would a little later, but no one questioned me or other witnessing prisoners. I filed a grievance but it was denied per grievance policy, "no inmate can file complaint for or about another inmate." About 3 to 4 days after Mr. Nave's death, CO Jernigan worked on the same wing, with a very arrogant and flamboyant attitude. When I mentioned Mr. Nave's death to Jernigan he said, "it was not my fault, he had a heart attack," and walked away.

This time I filed my grievance against Jernigan failing to let me have water and call a supervisor when I informed him I was overheated. That upset Jernigan, and he retaliated by ransacking my cell, taking things he had to give back. I filed another complaint mentioning CO Jernigan killing Mr. Nave and trying to kill me in retaliation for me filing these grievance complaints. A few weeks later Sgt. Thomas informed me Justin Jernigan was removed from the unit work schedule. But that won't bring Juan Nave back to life or relieve his suffering the day of his death. This is why I need all the firepower I can get with all the grievance support that's available.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This fight against the dangerous heat in Texas prisons is literally a battle of life and death, as demonstrated by this article and others we have received from across the state. This is a good opportunity to push the Texas grievance campaign and demand grievances be heard. The rule that a grievance can be denied because a dead prisoner is unable to file his/her own grievance is just one more ludicrous reason used by TDCJ to reject our valid complaints against mistreatment. Write to us to request a copy of the Texas grievance guide.

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