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.
Shut Down the Control Units