The Best Little Trap House in Texas

You may have heard the expression, “Whatever happens in ‘Vegas, stays in Vegas.” Since it’s a place where drugs, gambling, alcohol, and prostitution are the norm, it’s widely accepted in the community that those things are just going to happen there. But, you would probably be surprised to learn, if you live here in Texas, that all of those things go on every single day in your community, too. Worse than that, the place where all these things happen, known in common Slang as a “trap house”, are owned and operated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

The same philosophy they have in Vegas about keeping silence is part of the institutional “Code” amongst not only the inmates, but also the guards and even the administrators. ‘This ladder goes all the way up to the warden’s office.

If the average person was asked how the drugs get into the prison, they’d probably say that the prisoners’ families or friends are bringing it in during visit or smuggling it through the mail in our care packages, because that’s what they’ve seen on TV. In reality, very little of this contraband is smuggled in by our visitors. Most of it walks right through the front-gates, and the State employees are the “mules”. And a lot of these will likely be ranking security officers who can easily walk in and out without suspicion. Of course, they lead the public to believe that all this dope is coming in at our family visits for a lot of reasons. For one, it deflects suspicion away from them.

For another, it creates an antipathy towards visitation in general that keeps public opinion muted against such backward practices as draconian visitation policies, and similar acts compassion such as bereavement furloughs so ANY inmate who loses a close loved one can go and participate in the grieving and goodbyes with their surviving family. But the truth is that every single visitor is pat searched upon entering the visitation area, and every single inmate is strip-searched not only going in, but also coming out of visitation. So, let’s say some of this junk IS coming through visitation, it’s only because the officers either aren’t doing their jots or they are being bribed to look the other way when they see it. It’s that simple. If you’re friendly with the right guards and have the money, you can get just about anything in here.

There was a time when being a “screw”, one of the old-time TDCJ guards was a not only a good job, but an honorable profession. Now, though, your average TDCJ guard doesn’t get paid all that much and can easily be bribed.

If an inmate is caught in possesion of drugs, he usually is charged with a felony and gets more time. But if an officer is caught bringing drugs on the unit, the majority of the time, they may lose their jobs, but it all gets swept under the carpet. They don’t bring any charges against them, and it sure as hell never makes it into the papers. Why? Because that wouldn’t fit the TDCJ narrative- inmates are the bad guys, guards are the good guys.

I’m fortunate to be in a minimum security facility where we’re not overrun by gangs or drug use. But even here, it is present. The drug of choice is synthetic marijuauna, or K2. There are smokers in every single dorm, even where the highest level trustees stay, and the officers and the administrators don’t seem to care. And why would they, if they are makinzg a profit off of it? The prisoners who get caught with “hootch” (homemade alcohol) are punished more severely than those with drug cases, and it’s because there’s no money in hootch.

You can’t hide this K2 smoking. It’s obvious. Not only does the noxious smell of burning chemicals assault your nose, but it has drastic effects on the smoker. It turns them into zombies. They literally get stuck and can’t move or function. Some of them start screaming wildly or make these deep, animal-like groaning noises. Many times they end up passing out or having a seizure, and some have even died from it. But the vast are playing “hear no evil, see no evil.” The law is very clear, these guys are commiting a felony, but not only do they escape without arrest, they aren’t even disciplined internally when they’re caught. It’s all because someone is making a lot of money and doesn’t want it to stop. Now, how do they expect inmates to change their lives, when, they not only make it so easy to continue doing the same things that landed so many of us here in the first place, but are showing them the businegs model for how to “step-up their game” when they get out of here.
A lot of inmates have been given a free hand in this trafficking, but it is only hurting them in the long run. They’ll get used to it and start thinking they can continue their criminal ways when they get out, but it’s just not the case in the freeworld. It’s why I believe so many exoffenders end up coming back. No one is learning from their mistakes if being allowed to take part in illegal behavior while locked lip..

Am I just being skeptical when I say it’s all about the money? Well, if every single inmate learned how to straighten up and fly right the first time he came to prison, how many empty beds would the TDCJ have? I’ll tell you, it’s a lot. They’d be closing prisons left and right, and isn’t that what we all want? Sadly, no. Just like any other thriving business, zero customers means zero dollars, and that’s something the TDCJ does NOT want. So they’d rather make it so that the inmates keep coming back, because as long as we’re here, they’re making money off of us and our families. They don’t want changed lives and successful inmates. They want a successful business model, and they’ll “always leave a light on for you.”

This is not something that’s easy to figur out for the “first-timer” new to the system. We all come into this place programmed by politicians and police officers to think this is a place where evil people are locked away with some hope of reform. And people CAN change, and they WILL change if set in the right environment, but the TDCJ is NOT that environment.

You’ ve already read about some of the problems we’ve been having, with commissary on this unit. Just two weeks ago, two female civilian (non-security) staff who worked in the commissary were caught bringing in K2, vodka, and other contraband. This had been going on for months, while the problems with the commissary were glaringly obvious. Yeah, they were fired and walked off the job, but how long had this been going on, and how many others are doing the same? The local papers haven’t reported any sort of arrest, and the fact that this was happening right in their own prison hasn’t made the news.

This prison is kept open with taxpayer dollars, so why is everything here kept secret? It’s because when the TDCJ starts having to answer questions, there’ll likely be an investigation, and the feds will be right back in here, and they sure don’t want that happening. People will lose their jobs, and some of them will certainly end up in prison themselves. These people are being paid to KEEP the law, not break it and profit by it. And all the while, they look down on us, but the only difference between us and most of them is, they haven’t been caught yet. But, it’s only a matter of time before these things come to light.

We need the public to get involved. To start asking questions. There’s so little we can do from in here. Even our mail is read coming and going, so writing about certain things going on in here brings reprisal. There’s so much that needs fixing, and a lot of it is easy to fix. Independent investigation of grievances would be a good place to start.
I talked a lot about drugs, but another big problem in here is female officers establishing relationships with inmates. But that is another easy fix. Get the women out of men’s prisons and get the men out of women’s prisons! You’ ve got a guy that’s been locked up no telling how many years, and you’re going to let this woman come in here with her perfume and her makeup, and her talk and her walk? Are you kidding me? And the TDCJ KNOWS what happens when they do that, because they require these ladies to wear “kill shields”, and not “kill” as in a bullet-proof jacket, but “kill” as in a vest to keep the jack-off artists from getting an easy view of the merchandise.

And there’s alcohol, too. Last year, I was in a wing where they found some hooch in the dayroom. The sergeant orders every man in the dayroom to line up single file, and the whole line is stripped naked, and by one, while THREE female officers are sitting there watching. This is just wrong on every level. It’s not only against policy, a violation of our civil rights. We were essentially sexually harassed on this sergeant’s orders, just to humiliate us. If I were to expose myself to these women in the freeworld, I’d be looking at doing some time. But guess what? Once you’re doing time, it’s perfectly okay! Are the TDCJ officers above the law? Do they get to make their awn law? My wife sure won’t be happy when she reads about this incident! I also don’t know much about what happens in the women’s prisons, but I doubt if it was the other way around, male officers wouldn’t be allowed to see the women nude. Here, though, female officers can walk in any time of the day or night, even when we are in the shower, which doesn’t have doors, or the toilet, which is in the open, also. Yet, TDCJ expects us to respect these guards. None of this should be happening, and the public needs to be made aware of what goes on behind the fences and razor wire.

This stuff I’m telling you about isn’t going on in some private facility with no oversight, or in a foreign country. These things are going on in your very own backyard, at TDCJ run and TDCJ operated facilities all over the state of Texas. And they do it with YOUR money! Tax-payer dollars. You have a right to know, and our families have a right to know. Things need to change in here, and they need to change soon, by our own hand, because we sure don’t want a bunch of outsiders from Washington, D.C. coming back in here all over again, and telling us how we’re going to run things down here.

Just like the inmates, the guards are getting “institutionalized”. They’re getting used to breaking the law and getting away with it. But if we take the bad guys out and make an example of them, if we at the very least make sure they get arrested and do time in the very prisons they’re supposed to be guarding, things will change, and change quickly. But, instead, the TDCJ chooses to play the quiet game and act like nothing is happening. It’s up to us to not let that happen.

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