The Voice of the Anti-Imperialist Movement from

Under Lock & Key

Graphic design skills? Help us with our new logo! help out
[Campaigns] [Texas] [ULK Issue 39]
expand

Response to Texas Petitions Falling on Deaf Ears

I read over the letter from our Polunsky comrades. This is what I recommend. Often it helps to attach an I-60 with your Step 1 grievance and ask the Grievance Officer for the processing number of your grievance. If you have this number you will have a direct reference to track a grievance. This helps discourage grievances being "misplaced." It's also handy when you write Administration Review & Risk Management (ARRM) about the unit not addressing that particular grievance. For important and serious grievances it is useful to start them like this:

I file this grievance to exhaust all administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act to bring forth action under section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code.

It basically says: I'm going to sue you! It's not a guarantee but such an intro may make the grievance officer take it more seriously.

In regards to the officers who confiscate personal property and then destroy them, I'd like to direct our comrades to the Texas Grievance Guide, in particular the part concerning filing criminal charges against officers. If an officer takes a prisoner's property without giving a confiscation form stating the reason for confiscation, then that is legally theft. It is also a violation of your civil right to due process (which is also a criminal offense). Of course you will need some kind of proof that the item existed and was taken. Get prisoners to write affidavits and reference any camera numbers (if there are any). The criminal charges may not stick because pigs don't eat pork, but it may give them a wake up call and make them think twice.

I agree that our grievance petitions are having no effect with the people we are currently sending them to. I feel it more beneficial to send them to ACLU Texas or the DOJ. Our grievances and complaints are systematically neglected and denied. It is an Orwellian system, a labyrinth of closed loops, a facade. We need to push for the TDCJ Independent Oversight Committee which will place our grievances before an unaffiliated organization with the ability to monitor TDCJ to ensure that it abides by statutory law and its own policy.

We shouldn't hope sending the grievance petition alone to the DOJ or ACLU is enough. We must promote and campaign this proposed bill to our freeworld friends and family. I see no other way to break these closed loops.


MIM(Prisons) responds: Write to us for a copy of the Texas Grievance Guide. While we agree with this comrade that a TDCJ Independent Oversight Committee would bring progress for Texas prisoners in their fight against abuse and injustice, this too is not enough. We must learn from history that reforms like this one are followed by DOJ tricks and adjustments to work around the new policies and continue the same old abuse and repression. While we should still fight for these reforms, and use the battle to educate and unite people both behind the bars and on the streets, we must do this in the context of the broader struggle against the criminal injustice system. We should never mislead people to think that one reform or one house bill will make the change we need to see to create a true system of justice.

chain
[Campaigns] [Texas] [ULK Issue 37]
expand

Texas Restrictions on Indigent Correspondence Campaign Update

When a prisoner writes the TDCJ Executive Director it will always be forwarded to the Ombudsman. They (Ombud) will always reply that they do not respond to prisoner complaints and that the grievance procedures should be followed. It's a "closed loop" to prisoners.

The Call to Action that I wrote which included the contacts were primarily for our family and friends to put pressure on authorities so that our grievances are more effective - eg. our families should contact the Executive Director and Ombudsman to file an official complaint about the policy change.

I got my Step 2 back around November and I sent it to the Texas Civil Rights Project to see if they would be interested in representing this issue in a lawsuit. I am yet to get a response from the Texas Civil Rights Project. It could be worth while if someone could contact them (TCRP) about this issue to prompt a response to my correspondence to them as I know they get piles of mail every week.

We not only need to file grievances but also strongly encourage our freeworld friends and family to contact all the contacts on the Call to Action to put a lot of pressure on the Texas Board of Criminal Justice to repeal the policy.

I believe it is futile to send the Texas Grievance Petition to the Executive Director because of the closed loop with the correspondence being forwarded to the Ombudsman. It could be worthwhile for freeworld people to send a version of the petition to the Exec Dir but I think prisoners need to start directing the petition to someone else.

I also want to mention that this mail restriction should not affect legal/privileged correspondence - prisoners should still be able to send 5 per week.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We received information from another prisoner on this same issue:

Comrades in Texas, do not send your petitions to the Executive Director or Central Grievance office because they are not working in our favor. They only forward the petitions to departments that don't address these issues, who contacted me and said "address this grievance related issues on a unit level with the grievance investigators."

We on the Polunsky plantations are sending our petitions to: ARRM Division, Administrator, PO Box 99, Huntsville, TX 77342-0099. I suggest that all Texas prisoners do the same so that we will be in solidarity. Let's flood their office with our complaints. If this doesn't work we will flood the DOJ in Washington DC. Let's work in solidarity!

We agree with these comrades' recommendations that prisoners focus sending their grievances to somewhere other than the Executive Director. We suggest the following addresses:


ARRM Division, Administrator
PO Box 99
Huntsville, TX 77342-0099

Senator John Whitmire
PO Box 12068, Capitol Station
Austin, TX 78711

Oliver Bell
Chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice
PO Box 13084
Austin, TX 78711-3084

We also now have a sample Step 2 grievance available to those who had their Step 1 on this issue rejected. Write to us if you need a copy of this.

We know this campaign is not going to change the criminal injustice system in any significant way. But restrictions on mail access is equivalent to cutting many people off from the outside world. And for those who are engaged in educational and organizing work, this is a significant problem. For this reason, focusing a campaign on restrictions on indigent correspondence is important to our broader organizing work.

chain
[Medical Care] [Campaigns] [Texas] [ULK Issue 37]
expand

Fighting the System: Appealing the $100 Medical Co-Pay in Texa$

The Texa$ Legislature cut $60 million from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) budget for 2012 and raised the medical co-pay from $3 per visit to $100 per year. They had the unrealistic expectation of collecting up to $15 million from the prisoners [see Prison Legal News, Oct 2012 p. 42]. As all of us have noticed, the TDCJ also enacted other corner cutting measures to save pennies. These include: cutting back on legal books at the law library, reducing education and rehabilitation programs, serving two meals on the weekend and dessert once a week, restricting indigent correspondence to 5 letters a month, banning freeworld stationary (so you must buy it from the commissary), and reducing the number of staff. The idea was to reduce expenses that would help Texa$ manage its massive budget shortfall.

This guide is about appealing the $100 medical co-pay in Texa$. It presents all the Co-Pay Exemptions that can be used to get your money back. We want to keep our very limited funds out of the hands of the TDCJ so that we can use it for more important purposes. Specifically, you are encouraged to spend any money you recover on educating and organizing others. Send a donation to Under Lock & Key to expand the pages in this valuable resource, create study groups and make copies of literature to study, copy and distribute grievance petitions to fight the corrupt grievance process and to end the limit on indigent correspondence, or buy stamps and envelopes for indigent prisoners who can't buy for themselves. There are a lot of things we need to be doing with our limited funds, so we fight to keep this money from being appropriated by the state.

How Do We Appeal The Medical Co-pay?

It is rather simple. Get a Step One Grievance (I-127) and explain on it why you are exempt. If your Step One is denied, follow through with the same argument in a Step Two (I-128). You will be surprised at how often the Appeal is granted. The issue is that most medical departments systematically charge everyone the co-pay out of hope you are ignorant about the exemptions and fail to appeal it. They get away with this because there is no confirmation necessary for them to charge you (compared to commissary purchases, receiving legal mail, sending indigent correspondence - all need your confirmation - but not the medical co-pay). Here is a brief example: Co-pay is not to be assessed for any prisoner receiving a clipper shave pass as they have been diagnosed with a chronic and permanent dermatologic condition - "pseudofolliculitis barbae." Diabetic prisoners who receive foot care, specifically toe nail trimming, as part of their chronic care treatment plan are not to be assessed a co-pay fee either.

The medical co-pay regulation can be found at Texas Government Code 501-063. The Administrative Director for it in TDCJ is AD 06-08. In relevant part, the Co-payment Determinations and Exemptions are found in Section III.

Here are the Exemptions:

A) Unless specifically exempted, offender-initiated visits shall be subject to a copayment (meaning that if you do not initiate the visit, i.e. work related or officer initiates it, then you are exempt).

B) A copayment shall NOT be charged if the health care service is the result of an emergency which includes, but is not limited to, injuries sustained as a result of an accident or assault. Such injuries shall be covered by the emergency visit exemption.

C) Copay shall NOT be charged if the health care services are related to the diagnosis or treatment of a communicable disease. Such services, including follow-up visits and testing, are exempt as either a chronic care visit or a department-initiated visit. Offenders shall not be charged for initiating communicable disease testing.

D) Initial requests for mental health reviews initiated by the offender are NOT subject to the copayment requirement. Emergency, follow-up, or chronic care requests for mental health reviews shall NOT be charged a copayment.

E) Follow-up visit related to the monitoring or treatment of a condition diagnosed in a previous visit with a health care provider are exempt from copayment charges.

F) Prenatal services, including the initial visit diagnosing pregnancy, subsequent examinations, testing, counseling and patient education services are specifically exempted from copayment requirements.

G) Physical or mental health screening, laboratory work, referrals and follow-up appointments provided or recommended as part of the initial intake diagnostic and reception process are exempt from the copayment requirement.

H) A health screening upon arrival at a new unit of assignment shall be considered a visit to a health care provider initiated by a health care provider and is exempt from the copayment requirement.

I) Prescriptions and medications are considered to be a result of a medical visit and follow-up procedures and are exempt from the copayment charge. No charge shall be assessed for accessing approved over-the-counter medications made available in the offender housing area.

J) A copayment applies to a single visit. An offender requesting a visit to a health care provider for multiple symptoms shall be charged only one copayment if the symptoms are addressed in the same visit. If a request for a visit with a health care provider results in scheduling of appointments with more than one provider, such as a dentist and a physician, the initial visit with each clinician is subject to the copayment requirement.

K) If an offender is being seen by a provider for services otherwise exempted from the copayment and during the course of the visit requests healthcare services related to a different condition then that being served, the additional request shall be treated as an initial offender-initiated visit, shall be documented in accordance with the walk in procedures, and are subject to the copayment requirement.

L) A copayment shall NOT be assessed for medical treatment of self-inflicted injuries. Offenders inflicting injuries on themselves shall be referred to mental health evaluations.

M) Offenders shall NOT be charged for "No-Shows" because a visit did not occur. The copayment requirement only applies if the offender is seen by a health care provider. "No-Shows" shall be documented in accordance with CMHC procedures.

N) Dental services are considered health care services and subject to the copayment requirements if the services are initiated by the offender. Exemptions from copayment requirements for emergencies, chronic care, follow-up, health screening and evaluations, and department initiated visits are to be applied in the same manner as for other health care services.

O) Physical evaluations following use of force incidents are required by TDCJ policy and are not subject to the copayment requirement.

P) Inpatient services are considered follow-up services and are not subject to the copayment requirement. These services include, but are not limited to, hospitalization, extended care nursing, hospice and unit infirmary inpatient care.

Q) Procedures or testing ordered by a Court or performed pursuant to state law are exempt from the copayment requirement.

R) Services provided under contractual obligation established pursuant to the Interstate Corrections Compact or under an agreement with another state that precludes the assessment of a copayment shall be exempt from the requirement to charge.

Each One, Teach One

Share this guide with those who need it. If you are a good grievance writer, then help those who may not feel as confident. And be sure to encourage everyone to make good use of the money they win through these grievances. It is not enough to just keep $100 out of the hands of the TDCJ. If that money is spent on unnecessary canteen purchases or on drugs or services that are bad for your health and/or a waste of money, you haven't actually accomplished anything. Spend this money on meaningful work to fight the criminal injustice system. Even a small donation can help with the education of others and the expansion of our work, and $100 can do a lot! Get in touch with MIM(Prisons) to make a donation or for more information about educating and organizing in Texas prisons and beyond.

chain
Go to Page 1
Index of Articles