Have Your Cake And Eat It Too

I’d written a few chapters ago about our medical department and a nurse that works here, but I also wanted to show how the Texas prison system will steal from the taxpayers. The depth of their heartlessness will surprise you, although it comes as no shock to me. I mean, after thirteen plus years of watching the abuses both mentally and physically, and after watching them steal our food and starve the prisoners, this, truthfully, is not shocking.

The Puppetmasters, years ago, came up with the idea of charging every inmate a three dollar co-payment fee every time they needed to go to the infirmary. After some years of charging this seemingly reasonable little fee, “Hey, let’s raise this co-pay 3,333%! We’ll charge $100, instead of three.” At the time, the HIGHEST co-pay in other states in our nation was charging prisoners was seven dollars, and that unit was paying its prisoners for their labor.

Someone reading this might say that a hundred dollars isn’t too bad, and as a percentage of income for someone working an average paying job in the free world, they’d be absolutely correct. But, as I’ve mentioned in my prior chapters, Texas does NOT, in any way, pay their slaves to work. Everything we do for these people, we do for nothing. So, as a percentage of the income we make, this co-pay is infinitely high. Also remember that Texas does not supply its prisoners with essential hygiene products necessary for good health. Yeah, they give us those five, one-inch soaps every week and a tube of toothpaste about the size of your thumb every three months, but everything other then that we need for proper hygiene, we must purchase from the commissary- the only store in town and the one run by and profiting the TDCJ.

I’m not talking about luxury items here. Dental floss is essential. We need deodorant. Really, can you imagine not using deodorant? Can you further imagine living in a cage in temperatures reaching the 90s and 100s all summer long and not wearing deodorant? There’s no A/C in here, folks. The smell is already breath-taking. Take away the deodorant, and it would be rancid. Shampoo is a luxury? I don’t think so. We need to have adequate soap and toothpaste. We also need to wash our t-shirts, gym shorts, washcloths and personal clothing, which the state does not provide for. They don’t give us any detergent for this purpose. They don’t even give proper supplies for cleaning our cells and personal areas.

So, let’s say that you have a son or daughter that is incarcerated in prison. You send them money to buy these things they need, and then find out that the prison has taken this money because their child became sick and had to go to the infirmary. Since prisoners in Texas don’t get paid, the burden of helping a loved one in prison falls on these family members or friends. These dear people, along with you, taxpayer, have already paid taxes every single time you step up to the cash register and are charged that Texas sales tax. This money, naturally, goes for schools, roads, bridges, and it’s supposed to go for the prisons, too, and everything it costs to keep someone incarcerated. But instead of admitting that they have created a prison-based industry in our state and letting some of these people go when the state budget falls short of being able to pay for all it costs to keep these prisoners, they make our loved ones, who’ve already paid once, just like you, pay again by having their little gifts taken when they send them to their incarcerated son, daughter or friend. In fact, even the prisoners are being double-taxed. Whenever we go to the commissary, we’re paying the same sales tax as anyone else in Texas, then they charge us on top of that for something that the state should be paying for anyway. The Puppetmasters know that we have to have these things to survive in here, so they create a system that ensures that they can make a buck off the people that love us.

Prisoners will call home and get some money sent in so they can have some hygiene and a few soups or something in case the chow hall is serving dog food. And guess what happens if the family or friend sent less than a full $100? Texas will take half of every little penny sent to that prisoner until they exact the full amount of the co-pay.

Check this out and you decide for yourselves if the Puppetmasters are not some manipulative, cunning, thieving sons-of-bitches. There they are, double-taxing our families and our friends who are just trying to make sure we have a little hygiene and detergent, but yet they bring us their uniforms, their personal clothes, and their families’ clothes, too, so they can be washed and ironed by us slaves for FREE! And guess who pays for THEIR bleach, and THEIR detergent, and THEIR starch. Yep, YOU, the taxpayer. The Puppetmasters ROB you any and every way they can.

As I said earlier, it would be different if the Texas prisoners were paid to work. Then I could better understand the co-pay. In fact, one of the legal justifications the courts saw in the use of the co-pay was that it teaches the prisoner the virtue of working to pay for something he and his family will need when he reintegrates into society. This might be true in any other state, where prisoners are paid to work (the case was out of Colorado), but it holds no water here, because there can be no virtue in “teaching” a prisoner the value of paying for something if he has no money in the first place. The Puppetmasters force our loved ones to pay this hundred dollars knowing they’ve already paid the TAXES for the cost of our incarceration. Of course they will say, “How are we forcing them to pay?” Isn’t that truly self-explanatory? They know that inmates’ families are not going to let someone they love to sit in here without things we need, things that are essential for our health. But, of course, it’s okay for them to bring their uniforms and all of their families’ personal clothing into the prisoner slaves and use all the “free” bleach and detergent they need. Tell me the Puppetmasters don’t have a great scam going. They re-tax the people who’ve already paid their fair share while, at the same time, using those same public funds for their own personal benefit. And they call US the criminals! I sit here in my cell and wonder what they call themselves. Capitalists? Entrepreneurs?

Now, let me also ask everyone reading this a question. Would anyone pay one hundred dollars for a bottle of aspirin? How about cough drops? What about ibuprofen or Pepto Bismal tablets? Think of the most expensive over-the-counter medicine you can. Would you pay anywhere NEAR a hundred dollars for it? NO! You’d go down to your local drugstore and buy any of the items I’ve mentioned for maybe five to ten dollars. Now, the TDCJ will tell the public that all of these items are available on the commissary, and that they indeed cost about what you’d pay at a convenience store in the free world. And while they’d be telling the truth, they wouldn’t be telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, as they like to make us do in their courtrooms. They may have some of these items, but they leave out that they are almost always out of several of the most commonly used items. Right this minute, our Stevenson Unit commissary is out of ibuprofen and has been for months. They don’t have any baby powder and can’t tell us when or if they’ll be getting more. Plus, there are drug-store essentials they don’t even offer like toothache medicine. So, once again, the Puppetmasters have figured out a way to force us into going to the infirmary to get OTC drugs and make our loved ones pay one hundred dollars for something that should cost a few bucks at the commissary. And they don’t even offer any KY Jelly with this screw job.

There are a number of heavy consequences as a result of these extortionary policies. The first is that a heavy burden is put on the backs of our already well-laden families who are struggling with getting their bills paid and scraping up a few extra dollars to send us for hygiene and a treat. Surely, the Puppetmasters are well-aware that the vast majority of citizens with incarcerated loved ones are lower or middle-class people, mostly living check to check. Shame on them for taking advantage of these heckled masses just because they love us and are trying to help instead of abandoning us to the wolves to fend for ourselves. Second, there are a lot of people in here with families living below the poverty level, particularly those from Mexico or blighted project housing. They are lucky to get a little money every three or four months, so you can imagine how important these few dollars are to them. Here is how they struggle. First, they’ll do just about anything to hang on to those measly coins they receive and so desperately need. I’ve seen prisoners with their jaws swollen as big as a softball from an infected tooth, and instead of going to the dentist, they’ll take a razor blade and cut their gums to release the pus from the infection, then rinsing it out with salt water hoping to cleanse the wound. I’ve seen inmates with a broken foot or arm tie socks around the injury as tight as they could to keep the bones in place while they mended. And, I’ll never forget this one man that had a terrible staph infection. It started in the middle of his back and started out the size of a pin-head. After two or three days, it was the size of a baseball. Everyone told him, “Look, you better go to the infirmary,” but this guy kept saying only, “I can’t. My mom’s going to send me a few dollars, and I really need it.” Two more days go by, and it’s now the size of a small melon. He got some razor blades and towels and made his friend cut it open. This melon-sized sore was firey-red, and the guy is shaking from the fever the infection has caused. He can’t even straighten his back anymore. So, two other guys held this man down while his friend sliced open the sore -one long slice top to bottom. It popped when it opened up like a balloon, and it literally sprayed the men who were operating on him. Yellow, brown and black sludge was rolling down both sides of his body. His buddy slowly began pushing on both sides of the wound, and everyone heard it pop several more times. After a minute or so, his friend passed out, so the guy cuts it open sideways, too and just keeps pushing the infection out as much as he can. I kept thinking, Jesus, this dude might die!

When he was done, there was this giant cavity left where the infection had eaten away the flesh, so the “doctor” takes a big tub of anti-biotic cream and rubs it into the open wound. Then he cut strips of towel and stuffed the opening. Many times that night, I thought, It’s only a matter of time before this stupid $100 copay gets someone killed.

Fry me some eggs, boy! Wash my and my family’s clothes, inmate. Not too much starch on my shirt, offender. And while I’m at it, I’m gonna’ take your family’s money... TWICE... to pay for these medicines any man with a soul would give you for free. You’re going to pay for my food, my detergent, my bleach, and if you say anything or, worse, lay it down, I’ll make sure you get cased up and you can just stay here with me and do more time. How do you like them little green apples, boy? Now do you see why I call this a criminal organization?

In the meantime, people just like our thieving-ass ex-warden Beard, and those folks at the Darrington Unit that stole who knows how much of the Hep-C medicine that costs $37,000 a round just keep doing their thing and getting away with it. I wonder when Texans will wake up and say, “Enough is enough.” Are they capitalists? Hell, no. Criminals.

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