Is This Motel 6?

By Mike Powers

The famed and affordable highway waystation, Motel 6, has an advertising slogan that’s rather catchy, ‘We’ll leave the light on for you.” It’s comforting if you are a weary traveler searching for overnight accommodations, but I’ve discovered that lights left on all night can be pretty annoying if you are locked up in a TDCJ cage like I am. And when you pile several middle-of-the-night wake up calls on top of the ever-burning lights, well, a Hightower Unit inmate’s life becomes a sleepless hell.

I addressed the problem of midnight count times in a previous chapter, but I need to touch on it again this time with some updates that might interest you. You’ll recall, perhaps, that I was going to “grieve the issue”. Long-time readers are well aware of the scorn and contempt TDCJ inmates have for the pile of manure that is the grievance process. It is a shell game played with the courts to pretend inmates are being given due process of the law. It is also a classic example of the fox guarding the henhouse. When you think of a grieved officer, think of Sylvester the Cat trying to tell Granny he’s innocent, even though Tweedy Bird’s yellow feathers are sticking out of his mouth. And, oh, how we dream that some court somewhere (Granny) will someday take a broom to Sylvester (TDCJ) and rescue us before we get chewed up by the system. (And they said I couldn’t write with metaphors. HA!)

Attached to this submission, you will find two grievance forms. Now pay attention, because the TDCJ is so good at muddying the waters, it’s hard to follow the paper trail sometimes, but this is what happened. If you look at the Step 1 Grievance, in the top, right corner, you will see that about two weeks after I got here, on September 4th, 2019, I submitted the grievance. You can read the issues involved, also, but they are mostly the same as what I’ve told you about already regarding sleep deprivation, count times, and leaving the lights on all night. What’s interesting about this grievance is the response. It starts off, like just about every other grievance I’ve ever submitted, by responding that there was “no evidence to substantiate (my) allegations of policy violations”. Let me dismiss for a moment the obvious fact that there is nothing an inmate can do BUT allege with no “hard” evidence, because they don’t accept an inmate’s word for what is happening, either as a complainant or a witness, and, of course, we don’t have a cell phone on our person to record pictures, video, or conversations that would, at least in 100% of all the grievances I’ve ever submitted, fully substantiate my complaint with evidence. What I want you to notice, instead, is the artful dodge.

I clearly state in my opening, “I’m grieving the sleep deprivation caused by the behavior of 3rd shift C.O.’s or unit policy or both in violation of my 8th Amendment Constitutional Right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment.” The TDCJ officials immediately twist those words and say I was alleging policy violations. No, no, no, no, no! The policy IS the problem.

Also of interest, in what happens to be the longest response I’ve ever seen on a grievance (I guess they really needed to cover a lot of bases to justify their lawlessness), is this completely random defense to an allegation I never made in the grievance, “...Activities are being called in accordance to the Unit Building Schedule. The Unit Building Schedule ensures all general population offenders are provided out-of-cell activities.” It’s almost as if unit officials got my grievance confused with someone else’s and began responding to it in the middle of my own. It’s bizarre. But remember, when you think about the quality of people that TDCJ hires to be “on the inmate’s side” (i.e. Offender Advocates, Unit Grievance Investigators), you get a pretty pathetic showing, and this could explain the random response.

After checking some things out at the law library, I filed a Step 2 Grievance. I had to complete it on a modified Step 1 form, because they didn’t have any Step 2 forms, even in the law library, when I asked. Imagine that. That’s a pretty good way to discourage anyone from filing Step 2 grievances, isn’t it?

I explained that I was, according to grievance rules, grieving the “application and interpretation of policy” that permits all night roster counting. You’ll also see that the warden at the time, Ms. LeBlanc (our warden has since changed), retaliated my Step 1 Grievance by installing new “night lights” in every cell on my building. One of the maintenance workers even commented on her being “pissed off”.

Now, besides the pile of crap that was TDCJ’s response to my grievances, what I really want you to see here is how prison officials milk the system to discourage and deny prisoner complaints, stopping any chance for real change in the system before it gets out of the gate. I submitted my Step 2 on October 11, a Friday. It wasn’t processed until the 14th. At that point, the state has 30 days to respond to my grievance, so I’m not sure how the “Date Due” calculations were arrived at, but 30 days from October 14 is November 13 on any calendar in the Western hemisphere. Also notice, please, that there was no extension date requested. Finally, you’ll see that the “Date Returned to Offender” field is blank. HOWEVER, stamped way up there at the top of the page, almost outside of the “Office Use Only” box, is the date the grievance was supposedly returned to me, “DEC 20 2019”, a mere THIRTY-SEVEN DAYS after I should have received it. In fact, I didn’t get it, until the 23rd. For all of these people’s love for leaving the lights on, they sure like to do their dirt in the dark. After all, when it takes an entire school semester to address a pressing complaint like sleep deprivation, the bulbs must be awfully dim.

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