Prison conditions

Suicide Epidemic & Deadly Extreme Heat Continues to be Downplayed and Ignored inside Texas Prisons! 

by Keith ‘Malik’ Washington
Chief Spokespersyn End Prison Slavery in Texas -Movement-

“We have a responsibility to do what’s right so no one else has to suffer and die in our custody. That’s our responsibility…. We should look at this as a ministry — that they (Texas prisoners) are rehabilitated, not annihilated.” -Texas Representative Carl Sherman Jr. (D) Desoto 

The death toll inside Texas State Prisons continues to rise with no relief in sight. There is such a thing as Perception Management and “controlling the narrative”. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice employs a Public Information Officer named Jeremy Desel. Mr. Desel’s job is to misinform and mislead the public in regard to the conditions inside Texas Prisons. Managing the public’s perception of this unscrupulous State Agency is a very important job. 

For literally decades journalist Mike Ward co-operated with the State of Texas. Mike Ward used his platform to keep our loved ones blind, deaf, and dumb to the truth. The arrival of journalist Keri Blakinger balanced things out slightly but even Ms. Blakinger has her limitations. 

A close friend of mine who is currently housed at the H.H. Coffield Unit which is located in Tennessee Colony, Texas informed me that in the past two months there have been over 6 successful suicide deaths. 

These deaths prompted a visit to Coffield unit from TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier and other so called high ranking officials. It was only a couple months ago that Keri Blakinger of the Houston Chronicle reported that TDCJ was experiencing a 20 year high in respect to prisoner suicides. 

My friend who has been incarcerated for over 30 years blames the recent spike in deaths on a combination of deadly extreme heat and an uncontrollable K-2 epidemic. Synthetic marijuana is routinely brought into Texas Prisons by TDCJ employees looking to benefit from the illegal sale of the item among prisoners. 

I have no influence or status among prison guards nor do I ever wish to have any among this portion of the Texas workforce which co-operates enthusiastically and willingly with those who enslave us. 

However, I do have some influence among our fellow prisoners. So I have a question I’d like to pose to Texas prisoners as well as their loved ones in the free world:

“Would you choose the profits from your K-2 sales over the lives of your homeboys? Will you provide their families with comfort and financial stability now that they have died?”

For some it is easy to remain silent on this topic- I will not be silent! Synthetic marijuana use affects the body’s thermo-regulation mechanism. Can you imagine a 120℉ cell temp feeling like 150℉?!

Senator John Whitmire, a Democrat from Houston, Texas is the chairman of the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee. Senator Whitmire refused to support or acknowledge pieces of legislation filed this past session that would have mandated state jails and prisons be kept between 65 and 85 degrees.

This Bill that would have alleviated the inhumanely hot conditions inside Texas prisons was authored by Texas Senator Carol Alvarado (D) Houston and Texas Representative Terry Canales (D) – Edinburgh. I actually sent Representative Canales a thank you card for his part in filing this Bill. You should know that Terry Canales also tried to deliver hygiene items, food, and water to children trapped in facilities operated by Customs & Border Patrol.

For years Senator John Whitmire has ignored his colleague’s attempts to address injustice, abuse, and inhumane conditions inside Texas prisons. If Senator Whitmire won’t listen to his own fellow legislators, why should anyone expect him or his staff to listen to an imprisoned activist like me? I think it is time the public at large send Senator Whitmire a clear message during the next election cycle!

There is a very good reason why I support the people’s Right to Vote. Your Vote is your Voice! In 2020 oppressed people in Amerika must literally and figuratively SCREAM!

There is some “House Cleaning” and “Senate Cleaning” that must be done in Texas – I’m Ready – Are you? End Prison Slavery! Prison Lives Matter! No pay – No work! Freedom over Everything! Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win! All Power to the People – Free Jason Renard Walker!

 

Keith “Malik” Washington is co-founder and chief spokesperson for the End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement, a proud member of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee and an activist in the Fight Toxic Prisons campaign. Read Malik’s work at ComradeMalik.com. Send our brother some love and light: Keith “Malik” Washington, 34481-037, 

 

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Uncategorized

‘TDCJ placed me in harm’s way because I spoke out in reference to the extreme heat’

by Keith ‘Malik’ Washington

From the report: “The TDCJ also fails to provide effective medical care for its inmates. … The TDCJ neither monitors these inmates nor provides them with adequate living conditions to prevent suffering and death during the summer months. Indeed, all 14 inmates who have died since 2007 under the care of the TDCJ suffered from pre-existing medical conditions exacerbated by the heat … Five of the deceased spent less than a single week in custody before succumbing to the dangerously high temperatures in Texas facilities. … Even where the TDCJ has issued specific standards to protect heat-sensitive inmates, such as in work or recreation areas, the TDCJ fails to actually implement these standards.” – Photo: Lauren Schneider

From the report: “The TDCJ also fails to provide effective medical care for its inmates. … The TDCJ neither monitors these inmates nor provides them with adequate living conditions to prevent suffering and death during the summer months. Indeed, all 14 inmates who have died since 2007 under the care of the TDCJ suffered from pre-existing medical conditions exacerbated by the heat … Five of the deceased spent less than a single week in custody before succumbing to the dangerously high temperatures in Texas facilities. … Even where the TDCJ has issued specific standards to protect heat-sensitive inmates, such as in work or recreation areas, the TDCJ fails to actually implement these standards.” – Photo: Lauren Schneider

Greetings Brothers and Sisters! This year in Texas we have seen a marked increase in the exposure of heinous acts of abuse and mistreatment perpetrated by state employees who work for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). Behind the scenes, the prisoners responsible for this massive movement to combat injustice have become victims of retaliation and harassment at the hands of prison officials and elected state government officials!

You must understand that a sinister relationship has developed between the Texas Attorney General’s office and the agency which operates Texas Prisons (TDCJ).

When a prisoner, or prisoners, file a Federal Civil Complaint against the prison agency, the Texas State Attorney General Office sends a State Attorney to defend the prison agency and their employees.

What we are seeing is a coordinated  effort between the state and the prison agency to harm prison litigators! This practice must be stopped.

The retaliation and abuse has been manifesting itself in numerous ways; from cell assignments with violent prisoners, transfers to units in far flung isolated rural areas known for racism and abuse, to collusive efforts to sabotage a prisoner’s access to courts and due process.

The case of Keith Cole

Keith Cole is a black male prisoner in his sixties. In June 2014 Mr. Cole and three other prisoners filed suit in Federal Court alleging that the extreme heat conditions on the Wallace Pack Unit located in Navasota, Texas violates the 8th Amendment of the US Constitution.

These four prisoners emphatically emphasized, that their federal lawsuit was not about seeking some minimal level of comfort. Each one of these prisoners, including Mr. Cole, have been diagnosed with serious, life threatening, chronic, and heat sensitive medical issues.

According to the TDCJ’s own internal documents, due to the medical conditions of these four prisoners and the medications prescribed to treat them, exposure to extreme heat conditions could in fact cause irreparable injury or even death.

Despite these undisputed facts, TDCJ prison officials have refused, or failed to, reduce the extreme temperatures that currently exist on the Wallace Pack Unit.

In response to the extreme heat conditions the TDCJ crafted a “new” Administrative Directive – 10.64, which sets forth policies, procedures, and guidelines to help alleviate the consequences of being exposed to extreme heat conditions.

Officials in the Wallace Pack Unit have made superficial changes to give the “appearance” that they are complying with the directive. For example, according to the AD 10.64, during extreme heat conditions prisoners should be provided ice and cold water. To comply with this, Wallace Pack officials installed 10 gallon plastic coolers in all living areas.

However, during the hottest parts of the day, at the pinnacle of the summer heat, these coolers on the Wallace Pack Unit are full of ice with no water or water with no ice at all! In fact, some prisoners have reported that they have been ordered to fill up the coolers full of ice for the Navasota Fire Department. I believe the Pack Unit should support the local fire department, but this practice depletes the ice meant for prisoners housed at Pack Unit. And please understand, that most prisoners at Pack Unit are elderly, disabled, and in poor physical health.

Another Issue of contention has to do with the placement of barrel fans in each dayroom area of the prison. These fans are situated on the floor about 3 feet from the front of the dayroom seating area and do not meet the intent of AD 10.64. Due to the improper positioning of these fans they only benefit prisoners who sit on the front bench in the dayroom. In addition, these fans are powered by high velocity motors that emit noise which is so loud it can damage a prisoner’s ability to hear! These types of fans which are positioned less than 3 feet from prisoners are a clear violation of OSHA standards.

According to AD 10.64 these fans should be mounted up high and angled in such a way as to circulate air in the living areas where prisoners sleep in cubicles.

As a result of his peaceful and legal activities, Mr. Cole was transferred away from Pack One Unit to the notoriously understaffed and dilapidated McConnell unit located in Beeville, Texas. This transfer was orchestrated by the administration on the Pack Unit on or around October 2014.

The Chief Executive Officer and Senior Warden on the Wallace Pack Unit is Mr. Robert Herrera. It is hard to believe that he lacked any knowledge of this transfer because of the high profile nature of this particular lawsuit. Extreme heat in Texas prisons has drawn the attention of University of Texas, School of Law Human Rights Clinic, headed by Director Ariel Dulitzky, and has also drawn the attention of the United Nations.

I spoke personally to Mr. Keith Cole about his experience on the McConnell Unit. He said, “The living conditions on McConnell Unit are horrible. They are grossly understaffed, we are forced to eat bag lunches 50% of the time. Outdoor recreation is extremely rare, and the place is falling apart!” He continued, “It is obvious this transfer was retaliation for me ligating, but it is much deeper than that. In one instance they housed me with a mentally ill prisoner known as “Machete”! I had to convince him I was as “crazy” as he was. TDCJ placed me in harms way because I spoke out in reference to the extreme heat. The public should know how dirty and unethical these people are. They must be held accountable.” End of quote.

Our Pleas for Help!

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Texas Attorney General have established a clear pattern of conduct in which they retaliate, abuse, and mistreat prisoners who have engaged in peaceful, legal activities:

  1. On May 6th 2015, at the Terrell Unit located at Rosharon, Texas. TDCJ prison officials thwarted a disabled incarcerated US Army veteran from being able to attend court in Brazuria County on time; the prisoners name is Richard A. Dunsmore TDC#1826868. He needs our help!
  2. For 3 years on the Estelle Unit located at Huntsville, Texas, prisoner Oliver Eshman Lister TDC#1279183 fought to expose the abuse of elderly and disabled prisoners. Lister has been the victim of racist and bigoted retaliation tactics – he needs our help!
  3. Keith Cole TDC#728749 continues to be harassed and retaliated against on the Wallace Pack Unit! What will it take to get the Department of Justice down here in the racist stronghold of Texas?

Please come interview these men! Interview me and I will shed light on the deceptions and lies being fed to the public at large. This is no fantasy! This is our reality! Come see for yourself!!

Keith Cole filed legal claims of retaliation against TDCJ for transferring him to the McConnell Unit in Beeville, Texas. On June 1st 2015 I met Keith Cole at the Walls Unit in Huntsville, Texas. Cole and I were handcuffed together and placed on a bus headed to the Wallace Pack Unit in Navasota, Texas.

TDCJ actually has strict policies which forbid retaliating against prisoners for engaging in legal activities or participating in formal investigations or inquiries. All smoke and mirrors deceptions and lies for a blind public.

It is our hope that the US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Section will finally come down here to Texas and at the very least interview us! Many of us are black and hispanic men and women who are trying to better the conditions for all human beings trapped in Texas prisons.

By the way, Texas prison guards suffer from the heat also. They are people too!

Please help me in my quest for justice and humane conditions in Texas prisons. Tell Texas to stop retaliating against us!

We would appreciate any comments you may have pertaining to this issue. Please feel free to contact me.


[First posted on:
 San Francisco Bay View]
links added: 8/20/15

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