Respite

By Jay Goodman

Due to all of the deaths over the heat in the Texas prison system, T.D.C.J. has been under fire for allowing inmates to be severely tortured to death. So far the Puppet Masters controlling this prison system have admitted to 23 prisoner deaths due to heat-related causes since 1998. A 2014 report by the University of Texas School of Law Human Rights Clinic documented at least 14 heat-related prisoner deaths in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities since 2007 alone. It has always amazed me to see what it takes to get the Puppet Masters off of their asses and do something. Anything that will help save prisoners from dying. Truthfully, they don’t want to do anything. I don’t have to sell this to anyone because, hell, their record speaks for itself. They have known all along that prisoners are dying from the brutal Texas heat but have failed to do one thing to make even the simplest of changes.

It has taken different organizations such as Concerned Christians for Inmates, Prison Justice League, Texas Inmate Families Association, newspaper companies and a lot of really great lawyers to make an impact on our situation. All of these wonderful individuals have spoken out that we have been dying in these sweltering prison cells. You would think Texas officials might be beating the drums rampant after they found out what has been happening to us. Think about the summer of 2011 when 10 prisoners died in a 26 day period. There should have been huge changes in the whole system, but very little has actually been accomplished. Until the Pack Unit lawsuit hit the newspapers and it became public awareness about what has been happening to the inmates in the Texas prison system nothing had been done. Once this lawsuit hit the federal court the Texas prison system devised a plan to make it look like they were at least trying to do something for the inmates, they called this something respite.

In the cell block I live in there are 84 prisoners, we have six individual showers, one of which the administration has turned into a cold shower only. They told us that when we get hot we can jump in and “cool off.” Next, they have designated two areas that have air conditioning, the education building and the infirmary to be our “respite” areas. At first, the guards would make the announcement to release or “turn out” respite, only then could we go to either of these two places. As always with the Puppet Masters, every single thing that they do that might seem they are actually helping us or trying to make changes is simply nothing more than a smokescreen to appease the people and the courts. Now let’s say the guards did call respite and you decided to go. When prisoners arrived to one of these two locations the guards would begin to degrade you by saying various things “What you’re coming to respite, I thought you all were a bunch of tough guys,” (I have kept to the P.G. version of the degrading comments on this, some things should not be repeated) or they would threaten us “ If I see anyone talking in here I will write you a case.”

They would take chairs in a classroom and put them together so that they will force us to sit side by side so we are literally touching one another, cramped up like a bunch of sardines. There will usually be 30 to 40 chairs in the room, sometimes more. Even if only ten inmates were to show up the guards the guards would still make you sit side by side, practically in each others lap. Of course, this is all done to make you as uncomfortable as possible, hoping that you will not want to return. We were also demanded to sit straight with your hands on your knees, look forward, do not talk to anyone, don’t close your eyes, we were not even permitted to just sit and read a book. Everything they would do is to thoroughly discourage us from coming in. Most of the time the guards were instructed to make us leave after only a few minutes and would not be allowed back. Even though you might not be feeling well or still overheated. Now if they saw that they couldn’t break you from coming in, the ranking officers would send a few guards to your cell and tear it up. I know one inmate who had his radio broken and was told exactly why they had destroyed his things. Anything they can do to discourage us from going to respite they will do.

I knew then that the only reason respite was implemented was all for an act to bamboozle all the watching eyes to see them doing something in regards to all of the prisoners dying from the heat. I have also learned a lot of information from other inmates arriving from other units, the harsh treatment of prisoners at other prisons trying to use the respite areas is the same and sometimes worse. I was reading over the lawsuit from the Pack Unit and in it I saw that the inmates who went to the respite areas at that unit who were disabled (using walkers or in wheelchairs) were forced to stand with their noses on the wall. Think about this, it’s madness, a disabled man forced out of his wheelchair to stand with his nose on the wall. Tell me this is not one of the most idiotic and completely hateful assed idea that they could come up with. I want to hear what their logic is for doing something so degrading. If that isn’t bad enough the Pack Unit also told the prisoners that if they went to the infirmary for respite they would be forced to submit to a measurement of the core body temperature using a rectal thermometer. These tyrants controlling the Texas prison system will paint this picture to the different organizations that they are trying to help us, they will downright lie to everyone about how they started this respite program with the cold showers and air conditioning areas for us to “cool off”. What they don’t tell the public is that if we go to these places we will have to stand nose to the wall, have our cells and property destroyed, and of course, they would never tell you that they will need to run a thermometer up your ass to use this “respite.” They have taken a method to save lives and turned it into a punishment. To use this respite you are to be verbally abused, threatened and of course, sexually assaulted.

After everything that transpired in the federal court the state of Texas should have been infuriated over the treatment prisoners have gone through. Perhaps maybe many of the staff members would have been fired or state representatives might be speaking to the people controlling the prison system. How about the state officials calling a meeting of all the wardens to announce there will be severe consequences to anyone of the staff, including guards and ranking officers who threaten, discourage, intimidate or deny any prisoner from using the life-saving tool, respite. The 2017 “Heat Directive” e-mail sent to all T.D.C.J. officials indicates that, “during extreme temperatures, offenders must be allowed access to respite areas.” Given that this email had been sent to all of the prisons everything should have been put in place and all of the guards would be happy about respite. Knowing about all of the inmate deaths that have happened in the past, but that is well far from the truth. Today is August 19th, 2018, the inmates at the Pack Unit won their lawsuit in federal court.

The Pack Unit Warden Robert Herrera was cited for obstruction. The court found that Capt. Marshall had lied and was impeached during the hearing. Several officers were also shown to have lied, they were basically made to look like a bunch of clowns. This trial did show something I’ve been writing about all of these years, how hateful and cruel they are even today. I am at the Stevenson Unit in Cuero, Texas and just yesterday the outside temperature was over 100 degrees, so I decided to use the respite area for a while and cool down. I am in my mid-50s, I have seizures and I take 400mg of medication every morning to control it. Also, I have COPD and take other types of medicines that are listed as “drugs associated with heat stress. As I entered the school building I was greeted by Officer Lange who informed me that I could not talk, read or close my eyes. I noticed that he had around 20 chairs set up, all of them touching each other. Even though there were less than 19 inmates I was forced to sit touching another person. Several inmates asked to use the restroom but were told that they could go back to their buildings or cells, knowing that there is a restroom not 20 feet away. One inmate said to do this it would take over an hour to get back to the respite area. He was feeling sick and dizzy and should not be going back out into the heat again. The guard laughed at him and still said no. The inmate then asked to speak with a ranking officer and was told that he would call. Sgt. Wallace came in and the inmate was told that respite was for fags and if you want to use the restroom go back to your cell. Then Sgt. Wallace also stated that he could send a few officers to go and tear his cell apart.

Here is not only the guards but a ranking officer threatening inmates because they want to use the respite areas. They truly hate it that we have access to these places to cool off when it is too hot. It amazes me to watch them do everything in their power to make respite a nightmare for us. To think after all of the prisoners who have died in these prison cells the staff would do everything in their power to encourage everyone to use the respite areas. Again I believe the only reason that the “respite” was implemented was an act to fool those organizations, state officials, and all other concerned citizens that the Puppet Masters are doing something helpful on account of all the prisoners who have died.

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