Anyone Seen My Bags?

by Mike Powers

On August 23 of this year, as my readers already know, I chained out to the Hightower Unit from the Diboll Unit. I had to come to the Hightower to attend my nine-month long sex offender treatment program. When I left Diboll, I took one “chain bag” with me. (A chain bag is a red string bag that shopper would recognize if they’ve ever bought a bag of potatoes.) I left behind two items- only because you’re only allowed to take one bag with you- that would have to be sent by “truck mail”. Truck mail is the internal correspondence system of the TDCJ. Fedex it ain’t. Those two items were my typewriter and another bag filled with paperwork and a little bit of commissary purchased food.

Two weeks later, give or take a couple of days, my typewriter appeared unscathed. Alas, my other chain bag wasn’t with it. Since that time, I’ve been writing letters to various prison officials trying to locate my other bag. I’m glad to report that these efforts must have paid off, because early last week, on November 19, my property finally was delivered to me.

Going through the bag, I believe I was able to piece together what happened since certain clues were left behind. But in order to get the full story, we have to go all the way back to the day I left the Diboll Unit.

Officers told me the night of August 22 that I was on chain. Several hours later, putting us into the morning of the 23rd, my property was inventoried by one of the guards who, frankly, just wanted to get back to the picket and go back to sleep. In his haste to fill out the inventory sheet required to document an offender’s property on chain, he marked down everything I called out as “in Offender’s possession” instead of some of the items as “stored in Property Room”, which would be the items left to go on truck mail. I admit that when I was given my copy of the form to sign, I should have stopped right there and asked for a corrected copy of the inventory. Friends, I confess I, too, was very sleepy, and I longed to catch several hours of sleep before going through the taxing ordeal of the chain bus. My bad. However, each bag had a tag on it the “TDCJ Property Tag”. This tag tells anyone who the bag belongs to and where it is headed. So easy, a caveman could do it. (I hope I didn’t need permission to say that.)

After a couple of months passed, and I still hadn’t received the bag, I wrote the Diboll Property Officer directly and asked about my missing bag. I’m glad I did. I received a reply almost immediately through my enclosed SASE. (By “immediately”, in TDCJ time, I mean two weeks.) I’ve enclosed the paperwork myself so you can see it. The response was rather cryptic, but I took it to mean that the missing property was sent to me on October 23, which was good news to me.

As for the rest of the message, I don’t know what is meant. This is how it reads, “MST #1724 Sent 10/23/19 to High Tower (sic) Unit.” Also, in response to my inquiry, a fresh copy of the property report was sent to me. I was very glad to get this, too, in case it was necessary to start filing grievances to get compensated for the loss.

Instead, my property came back to me. There was, however, a cost. All the commissary food items in the bag were gone. While this was noted by me, I wasn’t at all surprised, because even bags that come straight through the truck mail have been riffled. To me, it was a small price to pay to get the rest of the stuff back.

Not surprisingly, the property tag attached to the outside of my bag when it finally came was not the tag I had filled out back in August. The new tag said the property was sent on 10/23, the same day the letter stated the property was sent. So, another clue.

As I was unpacking, the final and most important piece of the puzzle fell into place, and from this last clue, I think I can make a promising surmise of what must have happened to my property after I left the Diboll Unit the morning of August 23. About halfway down the bag’s contents, pressed between a folder and a large book, was another, well-worn property tag. It was dated August 22. I immediately noticed that a different offender’s name was on it, “Estaban”. Aha!

So, let’s theorize. On the morning I left, my bag was placed in the property room with all the other bags waiting for the truck mail truck to come and move them on to their destinations. Sometime during this crucial period in the bag’s history, my original tag was torn off or removed for unknown reasons. The truck mail truck appears and overworked, underappreciated inmates are told to load the truck. Uh-oh, what’s this? A tag less bag. Oh, no worries. Here’s the tag laying right here on the ground. The bag is routed based on the new, incorrect tag, and makes its way to my friend, “Estaban”.

Weeks later, “Estaban” gets ‘This” property. Perhaps he sees the food items. Maybe he takes the bag back to his cell, removes the food items, and then “discovers” that he had been given the wrong bag. Mayhap, he takes the bag back to the property officer on whatever unit he is on, and the bag is sent back to the Diboll Unit. I emphasize this is all pure conjecture. My poor tag less, ownerless bag sits and waits while paperwork and time pass. Finally, the right letter hits at the right time, and an astute official on the Diboll Unit realizes where the bag is supposed to go, to whom it belongs, and what he or she must do. They OPEN the bag and look inside to see if anyone’s name is on the paperwork. Behold it is. The bag is sent to owner.

However, it happened, I’m just glad to get my stuff, and I guess a few dollars of commissary is a small price to pay.

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