In ULK 76 you printed an article by the Connally Committee of Texas T.E.A.M. O.N.E. titled “Connally Unit Denying Grievances & Retaliating”. I cannot vouch for the retaliation from here in High Security, but as for not responding to grievances and being chronically understaffed, I can vouch for.
I filed 2 grievances back in early April and have had zero response to them. I found a good cite in Prison Legal News June 2022 edition. It says, “A prisoner’s administrative remedies are exhausted when prison officials fail to timely respond to a properly filed grievance.” (Haight v. Thompson 763 F. 3d 554 (6th Cir 2014)) According to this, if they do not respond to our grievances we can go on to a §1983 Civil Action.
My suggestion to TEAM ONE here at Connally is to go ahead and file §1983 Lawsuits with hand-written copies of your Step 1’s and try to file a Step 2. But your remedies are exhausted when TDCJ fails to respond to your grievances. They have 40 days to respond to a Step 1 or file an extension. If it has been more than 40 days and you have no answer, your administrative remedies are exhausted. I’m sending a handwritten copy of my Step 1 into the District Court this week. They will file, stamp it and assign it a document number and I’ll use it as evidence in my case.
As far as being understaffed, I can certainly agree with the writers of that article. Every end of the month into the first of the month this place is a ghost town. We are locked in our cells and fed sack lunches.
We did recently win a small victory as far as the grooming policy goes. AD-03.83 & SM-06.16 (Rev5) were updated on 10 May 2022 to allow male prisoners to grow long hair and wear pony tails. There were a lot of §1983 lawsuits pending on this subject. I’m still not totally satisfied with the updated policy because TDCJ reserves the right to force cut our hair for disciplinary reasons and they do not do this to the women. Growing our hair is a religious right, not a privilege to be revoked so I still have it listed in my lawsuit.
Revolutionary greetings to u all! We hope everyone is prepping for the upcoming action(s) of Juneteenth, and otherwise doing well. Comrade FireWater posed a question, “How can i help Tx TeamOne with a class action suit to have Our grievances heard or to get independent oversight of the grievance system?” i’ve decided to share Our answer with all of you as it may be helpful to the Tx lumpen populace at large.
In the past few months, Tx TeamOne’s founding committee has been forming working relations with a few liberal and petty bourgeois groups for progressive improvements within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). These groups include some elected officials, christian sympathizers, lawyers, radio personalities, and policy groups.
One such group is Tx Prison Reform (TPR), with whom one of Our founding committee members was able to conduct an extensive interview, establishing the basis of Our and the prison masses possible working relationship with this group. The interview will be published in their monthly newsletter and We hope to share it with u all as well. TPR is focused on the destruction of Restricted Housing Units (RHU), but is also collecting grievances and other forms of documentation to showcase the foul nature of TDCJ.
Many of u may be familiar with Tx CURE. If so you’ll know the Tx branch has been M.I.A. for awhile, but now has been reorganized by a recently released TDCJ ex-prisoner. This persyn was a leading figure behind the RACK II air conditioning lawsuit. Ey hasn’t established an actual mailing address but we have the help of a family law attorney who’ll send mailings to the head of Tx CURE. Right now, We’re looking for documented complaints regarding major issues in TDCJ. These grievances will be read in front of and by the Tx legislator at the next session. The persyn from Tx CURE will be persynally speaking on behalf of Tx inmates.
The issue of the grievance process is not a new one to us nor the state officials. The grievance system in Tx and in fact many prison systems around the country were the direct result of the Ruiz Litigation (Ruiz v. Johnson, 37 F. Supp. 2d 855 (S.D. Tex. 1999)), and since it was instated the same issues have been present. Accompanied with your grievances you should write an official statement which may also be read for/by the legislators and others. This statement should articulate the need for independent oversight of TDCJ grievance system, and make specific reference to Representative Jarvis Johnson’s 2019 House Bill which called for said oversight but has never been heard by the House. We want the 2019 House Bill 363 heard and approved by the Texas House of Representatives.
For those who don’t know the demographics are slowly but surely shifting. Due to national gentrification, the thriving industries in the state, and no state income tax, among other things, Texas is becoming younger, darker, richer, and slightly more progressive, particularly among youthful citizens. An essential contradiction in Tx is that of the rural vs. urban population and the culture wars, and fight for resources this intensifies. Urban populations tend to be darker, more liberal/progressive (not revolutionary though) and lean left of center on prison issues among others. Bernie Sanders’ organization “Our Revolution” has been pushing campaigns by petty bourgeois, Democratic Socialist elements around the country for the last several years and now this present election cycle they have several candidates who’re challenging the districts of the old guard Democratic Party establishment. These districts are in both rural and urban areas but mostly rural, which if successful will shift state electoral bourgeois politics for the next decade or so.
A key point of emphasis for these so-called New Left Democrats is Prison Reform. This will open organizing doors for revolutionaries within the walls and those who support us.
i share all this because elements from the New Left Democrats and some from a more moderate approach have championed and made possible a new committee to ‘Study Tx Criminal Justice Issues.’ They’re excepting documentary information from now until October on a wide range of issues covering initial interaction with police, to jail policies & conditions, Grand Jury issues, sentencing, and finally prison conditions. Below i will include their addresses along with those of the lawyer, and the groups i mentioned have been establishing working relationships with.
p.s. We’re also happy to announce the present development of a Tx TEAMONE committee in Smith Unit.
Jerney Coe Law Office/423 S. Spring Ave/ Tyler, TX 75702 Tx Prison Reform/ Box #671/ Kaukana, WI 54130 Fairchanges/2407 S. Congress Ave, Ste E-434/ Austin, TX 78704 (send reports on current conditions, at least 3 recommendations for change, deadline 7/4/2022) RealLife Ministries/ Box #328/ Forney, TX 75126 (also does RealLife Radio, write to find out where you can tune in) Dist. 141 - Senfronia Thompson/ 10527 Homestead Rd/ Houston, TX 77016 (Interim Study Committee on Criminal Justice reform ahead of legislation)
i hope this information is useful.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with Triumphant that a shift in demographics and elected officials could create more space for prison organizing. In theory an independent review board could create space for organizing as well. However, there is no historical example of such in the United $tates. Police review boards have never been effective nor independent. How could they be? The point of the criminal injustice system is to leverage the force of the state against those that pose a threat to the bourgeoisie’s and the state’s interests. This is a bourgeois dictatorship afterall, just like the rest of the world today.
Revolutionaries should campaign on the issues. If petty bourgeois reformers are willing to do the work to set up review boards and oversight and change rules, good for them. We should support them in doing so by campaigning on the issues that matter to us. As Triumphant mentioned, censorship and torture units (RHU) are among these issues. If we can campaign on these issues in ways that align with and support the bourgeois reformers that is a good thing. If revolutionaries take up the mantle of electoral politics and bourgeois reform, that is a very bad thing that leads to a never-ending cycle of oppression.
For many years, MIM Distributors has been providing legal resources to prisoners in Texas, including the Texas Department of Criminal Justice(TDCJ)’s own Grievance Operations Manual. In 2010, USW launched the grievance campaign in Texas, developing petitions to notify regulatory bodies when the TDCJ was violating its own grievance process. Four years later a comrade reported that on 30 September 2014 the TDCJ removed the Grievance Operations Manual, which lays out the TDCJ’s relevant code and policies, from all prison libraries(1) where it used to be available for prisoners to reference. Soon after, MIM Distributors began offering this document to comrades who were trying to fight grievances they had against the TDCJ.
Turns out, they have continued to step things up a notch to keep this public information out of the hands of prisoners. On 12 January 2022, MIM Distributors was notified by the staff that the TDCJ Grievance Operation Manual was censored at McConnell Unit on 10 December 2021 for the following reason:
“in contradiction with BP-03.91, Uniform Offender Correspondence Rules”
That was all the detail given. And we have not determined any portion of BP-03.91 that could possibly be applied to TDCJ’s own public policies. These types of cases should be easy wins for us. Unfortunately, we do not have the support we used to have to deal with prison administrators and hold them accountable. Outside supporters, get in touch to help us rebuild our capacity to fight these blatant injustices. Comrades inside that are falling victim to this repression, keep filing paperwork and provide us with all the info you can on what is going on.
notes: 1. A Texas Prisoner, November 2014, Texas Hides Grievance Manual from Prisoners, Under Lock & Key 42. 2. A Texas Prisoner, May 2019, Texas Confiscating Offender’s Grievance Operations Manual.
I am writing you today in regards to several issues. First, let me begin by thanking you in your support of those of us who fight. I learned of your existence through your “Texas pack”. It is old and outdated, but filled with information that I was grateful to see distributed to the population.
I am currently on the Hughes Unit and my time is filled with Step-1, Step-2, §1983, Withdrawal of guilty pleas, PDR’s, 11.07’s, and 2254’s. I am currently working on 2 Capital “Law of parties” cases, but grievances and withdrawals take up most of my time.
It literally destroys my heart to see so many with no knowledge of the system that enslaves them, abuses them, and ruins their futures. Please, continue to spread that knowledge. Grievances work! But you have to write them correctly, not as in format, but in substance! It is very unlikely you will get satisfaction on a Step-1, these people are cousins, friends, lovers, they will not punish themselves but a Step-2 will get you action. And always write Emergency Grievance: on the very top, and first line, this will negate the denial “screening” process, and you can submit as many as you need. But do not clog the system with “ridiculously frivolous” issues, these are what the authorities point to as examples to pass or uphold restrictive policies.
Yes, file a grievance, no do not lose heart when your Step-1 is denied, Yes issue a Step-2 on every violation, deprivation or abuse. That is how we fight. That gives “Another clear example of the dangerous, culpable, cultural attitude of abusive, negligent, deliberate indifference to not only the lives, rights, health, and safety of the offenders assigned under their care and supervision, but also to the duties and obligations as prescribed by employment by the state and TDCJ.” The cumulative reports are what WE must point to to bring to light the gross violations, and deprivations we suffer to get righteous policies and laws passed and abusive guards and administration fired. Don’t stop. Never stop. They enslave us with paper, only paper will free us. If not, then there’s a lot more of us than them. But that is off the subject. I am signing off.
On February 13th, 2022 it was announced via PA in East Block that there would be no yard due to holiday feeding. There was no state or federal holiday. It was just another Super Bowl Sunday. We’re being fed bullshit!
The deal is for second watch disrespectful sows to get an A.M. 7/11 lucky break before coming back to pass out lunch and dinner. Doing that might take an hour and the taxpayers eat the rest (comes with free-loading). Some of the second watch disrespectful sows will then join third watch and the game kicks off into overtime. The TV is set up in violation of 15CCR3394 distractions and the potluck tailgate assists close proximity in defeating the chance of a stable cohort – a violation of 15 CCR 3271, but no penalty?
As satirical as it may sound, this writing is an excerpt of events which did occur on San Quentin’s death row in East Block. Similar events as described above occurred in 2021 on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day 2022. Deliberate indifference to your right to yard, your health, or anyone’s safety in general means NOTHING to these disrespectful sows and the court has acted more like a referee paid off by the opposing team.
Want your rights back?
A suggestion to those warehoused on San Quentin’s death row:
Preemptively and immediately submit a 602-1 staff misconduct grievance against AW specialized housing for denying you safe access to appointments, visits, etc. simply because you refuse to ignore HC guidelines to practice social distancing – NOT possible in a holding cage/congregate waiting room AND an ultimatum in violations of 15 CCR 3271 if a valid concern exists.
If response implies no indoor close proximity concern is valid, then demand normal outdoor daily yards program be reinstated in a 602-2 follow up grievance.
Advise your PCP/MH clinician in writing on CDCR 7362 of your decision to follow HC guidelines to social distance and that custody refuses to comply resulting in you being denied safe access to HC/MH services and programs. Keep the yellow copy of that 7362 form for an official record.
*Doing this in conjunction with grievances citing other ways your card is being arbitrarily taken is a from of non-violent protest. SQ/CDCR’s response (or lack of one) creates an official record for future use.
I see a lot of complaints in ULK 76 about problems with Grievance Officers. I’ve been having those problems too and have gotten in the habit of undertaking the laborious task of hand-copying several copies of my grievances and keeping one to “file”, sending one to the “grievance box” and one to the “District Clerk”. That seemed to get a response when I did it on Willacy and sent a §1983 along with incorrectly screened (blocked) grievances. The wheels of justice quickly started turning the other way. Even though I don’t really have the money to file another §1983, I can’t afford to allow these Grievance Officers to get away with not responding to our grievances even more.
This grievance system was certified by the District courts as you’ve explained in the TX Pack and I’m hoping the courts will not be happy to see TDCJ blocking and denying our access to courts.
I’m not even sure a §1983 would be necessary if I were to somehow be trying to file for Contempt in the Cole v. Collier class action but I think Contempt has to be filed by Class Counsel? I’m not sure but am looking into it. It is a little confusing to know who all is a “class member” of that suit since the class extends to all who may be housed at the Pack Unit in the future that seems to me it covers the many prisoners TDCJ has rapidly assigned “Heat Scores” to.
Quick update on BP 03.91 – Yesterday, while at the law library, one prisoner recently received an order of photos that had been previously banned. This happened months after our legal group filed injunctions in relation to BP 03.91 and how it arbitrary enforcement wasn’t congruent with its parameters. What is even more eye opening is how staff and administration keep taking (and breaking) property. All grievances come back with “your allegations could not be substantiated.”
Some are fighting back small. Dragging the administration through many small litigation claims will weaken their resolve on bigger ones. The grievance system is a joke. While staff continue to bully prisoners around, by throwing away their property in the shakedown, confiscating their religious items, and cutting down their eating, showering, and dayroom times. Texas prisons are becoming more and more run by inmates who utilize drug connections with officers. Recently I had a sergeant who tried to intimidate me into recanting a grievance which I wrote about prisoners passing out mail (a new “hustle” some STG’s have turned up on by holding certain mail “hostage”). When I didn’t relent, he sent one of the gang members to talk to me. How do you threaten the life of a lifer? SMH These kids don’t get get it.
MIM(Prisons) adds: As staff shortages become the excuse to abuse and deny prisoners basic necessities, we are receiving reports of prisoners being used in this manner to deliver mail, do counts, even utilizing department walky-talkies to assist staff. In the short-term this is being used to further divide the prisoner population by granting some the role of the slave catcher and granting them benefits. But this also indicates a crisis in the TDCJ that will create new opportunities as the state loses control over day-to-day operations.
The police state may prove to be over-extended if they cannot get enough Amerikans to run the machine. With pigs dying from covid-19 at higher rates due to their bad hygiene, retiring faster, and refusing to go to work in the biggest prison systems in the world, we will certainly be seeing shifts in the near future in the terrain of the U.$. criminal injustice system.
First, on B.P.-391 in Texas, there are units that are fighting this policy, yet here on Connally Unit they are taking and denying everything they can and they are not allowing us to appeal anything. We’ve written a bunch of grievances and they all got returned saying that the issue is not grievable, and when we file step 2’s, they are all getting thrown away. We have no wins here on Connally.
Second, we’ve contacted the TDCJ ombudsman on multiple ranking officers and regular officers. In doing that we are getting retaliated on and harassed. They are cell searching and destroying our property, tearing our pics, denying us our privilege of commissary, rec or day room. We’ve sent multiple grievances on these officers and they never come back. The wardens are letting them retaliate on us and not doing anything about it! The Connally Unit is steadily short staff only on their Fridays and payday. Right now we’re short staffed and when we asked a question about what’s going on, they put us on 23-hour lockdown – for asking a question. They are playing with peoples’ lives and freedoms here on Connally Unit. We can’t grieve officers because they always come back saying “this isn’t grievable.” We’re in a no-win situation here!
MIM(Prisons) responds: If they won’t let you grieve, then it’s time to come together with all who can be united there and get creative. We’ve been fighting the grievance battle for years. It is only a tactic. It will never solve comrades’ problems overall because the rules are only applied when they want them to be.
Ten comrades in Texas’s William G. McConnell Unit signed and submitted a petition to Mrs. Emma Guerra, Investigator II with the Texas Department of Corrections and Justice (TDCJ) on 25 October 2021. The letter does a good job of citing grievances that have not been responded to as well as retaliatory actions by staff for filing said grievances. They also cite the relevant policy from the TDCJ grievance procedures and inmate handbook.
We have not succeeded in organizing a statewide coordinated campaign around the grievance system in Texas, but it remains an important campaign at the local level for pushing back against abuses and organizing others around a common cause as these comrades have done at McConnell. With their well-documented petition, perhaps they have a vision for how to unite others across the state for this common cause.