INMATES FLAMBE

Before I continue on through the 1990s and the Puppetmasters, I want to talk about another issue that has plagued the men and women inside the Texas prison system- the heat. It's been an issue that most people in our whole country have heard of. I have family in Cincinnati and New York, and they have seen coverage of it on the TV news and read about it in their newspapers from a thousand miles away.

Naturally, it's been a big debate here in Texas: some for AC and some against it. Many people believe that since incarcerated citizens broke the law, that we should receive no mercy. Once again, like I asked in my death penalty chapter, don't you want Texas justice to BE just? Let's say the son or daughter of whoever is reading this gets arrested for possessing some type of drugs and sent to prison. (And PLEASE don't think this scenario is so far-fetcned in modern America.) Do you believe justice would be to literally cook your son or daughter to death? Of course not. Seriously, if you are a parent of a teen or young adult, what do you think the chances are that one of your kids will try drugs? And it is certainly not inconceivable that this kid will get caught by the police. Let me assure you, the prisons are filled to the gills with these types of people. And no matter WHAT the charge they are in here for, they haven't lost the right to live. Remember, with the exception of people on death row, prisoners are incarcerated to pay a debt to society for whatever crime they committed. And believe me, the end of this chapter, I will explain in detail how each man and woman does indeed answer this debt.

I have three newspaper articles I will be talking about and including with this chapter. The first article is written by a man named Bob Ray Sanders. Its headline reads, "Life-or-death situation for in mates is cruel treatment. "I must admit that I was very surprised to read an article like this in a Texas paper. In it, he speaks out against cruel treatment of prisoners, and how the temperatures inside Texas prisons reached a heat index of 130 degrees. You will also see how DO inmates housed in Texas prisons died in a 26-day period from July to August. All of them were found to have died of hyperthermia, a condition that occurs when boay temperatures rise above 105 degrees. Can you imagine sitting in a room that's over 120 degrees? Now, can you imagine sitting in this same room every day for two to four months without any break? Let me explain.

You are sitting there sweating so profusely. From your head to your toes, you are soaked in sweat, all day, every day. The temperatures climb up over 100 degrees, ana the first thing that happens is my mind starts playing tricks on me. I notice simple things like trying to write, draw, or read become difficult. Mental confusion ensues. At night,our cells are still cooking . Every thing is steel and concrete , so it retains heat for hours. In the dead of night, my cell is still 90 degrees. Our mats are made of plastic, so we sweat constantly. If I can even get to sleep, I guess I should consider myself lucky, but by 6AM when the lights are turned on for the first count of the day, , I feel like I haven't slept a wink. And I'm the lucky one, because I'm medically unassigned. There are prisoners who have to go to work - hoeing the fields, cutting miles of grass, working in the factories , slaving over hot stoves in the kitchen ( no AC there , either ) , driving tractors or trucks , cleaning - and for them, the hell is even worse, for they will work with no rest in the heat of the day. They keep this up for months, year after year.

The mental and physical fatigue is overwhelming. It taxes the mind and body to the point of depression. You don't feel like you can do anything else. You don't even want to make the effort to walk down to the chow hall to eat a meal. Both the guards and the prisoners stay irratable, just on the verge of exploding all the time. By the second month of 100 degree temperatures , I find it diffi cult to even hold my eyes open. The cell becomes a sauna in the 90%+ humidity that is ever - present in this region of Texas . It even makes the walls sweat. Condensate is dripping from mysta in less steel toilet . I start seeing white spots in front of my eyes, and just breathing gets harder and harder. By the end of August, you feel like you'd rather die than keeps it ting in thi shell another day. But that's okay, because I'm dying anyway.

Think that's an exagerration? It's not. The second news article from the USA Today is by Ann Zimmerman. It talks about the many deaths that have occurred in Texas prisons due to the heat . Interestingly, the prisoners have an unlikely ally in their fight against the heat, the correction officers .I cannot tell you how happy I was to see these officers file this civil suit, beceuse it should show the public that this is not just some crying prisoners . Also, it shows the guards are willing to back the prisoners for what's right. They see people throughout the prison system that are suffering inhumanely. They see that we are not only suffering, but that we are being cooked to death. In my last chapter, I made the statement about how the Puppetmasters truly in their hearts care less about the guards who work in the TDCJ, and I can tell now some of them are starting to see the light. And before the Puppetmasters say, " That's part of the job, "I am going to say, 'Bullshit! "Yes, prisons can be dangerous, but since the late 70s, the Puppetmasters have put the Texas guards in so much unnecessary danger by allowing the war to go on ten plus years and by implementing petty rules and putting their lives in danger by having to enforce these stupid rules while the Puppet masters laugh and steal all the ways they can. And the heat is no different. The guards have complained forever, just like the prisoners, about the unsafe conditions. From the article, you can read the officers' union officials said corrections officers have complained to Texas prison officials that the heat index inside facilities is often as high as 130 degrees Fahrenheit, but still haven't been able to persuade them to make changes. Imagine that!

But the officers finally lost it when they saw the state officials (Puppetmasters!) spend $750,000 in June of that year to buy exhaust fans and misters so their PIGS could keep cool. Of course! This is how these people think! And this is what I've been trying to show you, reader. The Puppet- master scan't have their precious pigs getting sick in this ungodly Texas heat, because they sure don't want them to lose any weight before they steal them! It might be hard to sell askinny pig. To hell with the prisoners . To h e l l with our own officers. Let them cook to death, but better look out for those damn pigs, 'cause that's money in the pocket. And I agree with the article; it DOES speak "volumes" of how they think and care.about human life.

You will also read in another news article that Texas state law requires county jails to keep temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees. Get this. Brandon Wood says this is because those prisoners have not lost certain rights. Now, I would love to ask this idiot a question. Have the men and women in prison lost the right to LIVE?!Call me stupid,but isn't it a constitutional right for all prisoners to be free of cruel and unusual punishment? Are we supposed to be protec ted from confinement conditions that cause death? But once again, it shows the Puppetmasters at their very best. They careless that the officers or the prisoners are dying in here. We're all just tools to be manipulated, marionettes that dance on our strings for the people that use us for their own agenda.

Here is something else that has always amazed me that they'll put heaters in every single Texas prison, many of which seldom need it (especially in this South Texas unit), yet inmates are being cooked to death every fucking year, and still,we don't have air conditioning? Tell me there isn't something wrong with this picture.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison visited the Pack Unit to see the conditions for himself, and was told that inmates in previous generations survived hot summers without benefit of modern technologies. (See the copy of the article from the Victoria Advocate.) Setting aside for a moment the immediate thought that, apparently, these folks wouldn't mind bringing back the iron maiden and the stocks, which were also widely and effectively used in previous generations, their argument is a lie. The whole point is that those prisoners WEREN'T surviving the heat, now or then.

Yes, some survived. Even MOST survived. But heat has been killing Texas prisoners since there was a Texas prison system. Judge Ellison's response to this ridiculous statement was classic. "To deny modern technology to inmates today for the simple reason that it was not available to inmates in past generations is an argument that proves too much," he said. "No one suggests that inmates should be denied upto-date medical and psychiatric care, or that they should be denied access to radio or television, or that construction of prison facilities should not use modern building materials. The treatment of prisoners must necessarily evolve as society evolves." This federal judge:s answer was truly marvelous.

I have to smile to myself when I picture the look on their faces when Judge Ellison showed them how ridiculous their statement was.

I have a word, also , for for those poor, misguided souls who think prisoners are sent to the pentitentiary to suffer for the sake of suffering, instead of for punishment. I've done 13 years in prison. That's 13 years of my life I will ne^er be abl* to get back and believe me, it hurts. While in a Texas prison cell, a thousand miles from home, I've lost my only brotherwho died from complications during a stay in the hospital. I have lost my son to heart disease. My father died of leukemia. And just recently, I was told my mother died after a short fight with cancer. You better believe me when I say that having air conditioning would not have kept me from suffering, but at least it would ---- keep me from getting cooked to death.

The TDCJ admits in these lawsuits that at least 10 inmates died as a result of the heat from July to August. Those are the only ones that came out as a result of this investigation . I assure you that if they were to take all the "strokes" , "heart attacks", and other causes of death that were brought on by the heat in the first place, the numbers would be four or five times what they are reporting,or at least what they are admitting to.

In one of these articles, you can read about a man who was sentenced to jail for drunk driving. Not murder. Not sexual assault. Not even manslaughter as a result of driving drunk. Nope. He was sent to prison for driving while intoxi cated, an offense to which over 50% of all Americans polled have admitted committing at one time or another in their lives. He was sentenced to four years, TDCJ. After ONE DAY at a transfer facility,he suffered convulsions and died of a heat stroke. He was 45-years old.

I wonder how many times outrageous stories like this will have to produce headlines before the State of Texas gets it together and realizes that a 4-year DWI sentence shouldn't be commuted by deplorable prison conditions into a death sentence- and a cruel death at that.

The Attorneys
  • Francisco Hernandez
  • Daniel Hernandez
  • Phillip Hall
  • Rocio Martinez