Learn to Write Grievances

By Jay Goodman

As I said before, I did not come to prison with the idea of becoming a “writ writer” or some type of “jailhouse lawyer”. And I never imagined that some day, I would write a book about the Texas prison system. After my short stay at the Estelle Unit, and watching all the abuses of the elderly, and having a noose put around my neck by three guards, I soon found myself detesting everything I saw about this corrupt prison system. Nothing truthfully, prepared me in 2008 for what I would uncover and find out to be the truth, as the last eleven years rolled by. Not just the prison system in general, but the prisoners too.

You see, I did not just write this book for myself, but for all of my fellow prisoners that are in here with me. I have looked at the prison system and have seen the atrocities that have been committed and continue to commit. I see why they get away with a lot of things the way they do, and it’s because we allow them to. A lot of the avenues that are open to us like the Grievance procedure, Ombudsman, are looked at by most prisoners as worthless. I hear it all the time from everyone in here. Why waste my time, they won’t do anything. There is some truth to that statement, I’ve written about it in dozens of chapters. If something happens that everyone sees as wrong, but only one or two people write a grievance, the system will say, “well only this one prisoner complained so it must not have been that big of a deal”.

Allow me to give everybody an example. The chow hall is always taking our food and feeding the guards and other employees. On our trays, the pancakes and cornbread are usually raw, we never receive what we’re supposed to get, they will shortchange us out of our meals everyday. There are things that are sent here for us, from food banks and other organizations every month that we never receive. Believe me, I could write a book on our chow hall alone. Now if one or two, or three people complain the prison may make a few minor changes for about two weeks, then it will slowly go right back to the way it was before. But if one, two, or three hundred people would write a grievance on what is happening in our chow hall, you would see big changes. You see, if only a couple of inmates say something, the administration will say, ok, there is a thousand inmates here and only a few are complaining about the chow hall. They of course will think, it must not be that big of a deal. The Warden or Grievance Officer will talk with the kitchen Captain, who will, as I said change things for a few weeks. Believe these words of wisdom, let the Grievance Officer open her grievance box in the morning, and there are three hundred grievances on our chow hall, all at one time. Believe me brothers, you will see things begin to really happen for the better.

Now of course, lies the biggest problem I see throughout the Texas prison system. No one wants to step-up and help the ones that try to make changes. A lot of prisoners will get mad for some of the things I am about to write, but please remember what I said earlier, I am not just writing this book for myself, but for my fellow prisoners as well.

You see, I learned a long time ago, that one of the biggest tools the Puppetmasters use on us is their ability to pit us against each other. Whether it’s race, religion, or why a person is incarcerated. With that being said, let’s take a look at the real problem that holds prisoners back from achieving a better environment, better parole system, better and healthier food. I can sum it up with one word “Us”. The majority of prisoners are “Lazy”. No one wants to take the time that’s needed, and take the steps to make changes. I hear this often from my fellow prisoners. When everyone is mad about something that has gone wrong. I don’t like to write grievances, or I don’t know how, or could you write it for me. OK, for the one’s who don’t like to write grievances. Let some guard plant something on you, then trust me, you will love and want to write grievances. For the one’s that don’t know how; you didn’t know how to sell dope, steal cars, rob, break into homes or businesses, but you learned, didn’t you? And for the one’s who say, could you do it for me? Come on, you act like someone asked you to help put a roof on a house. There are only a few lines, what is it going to take you, five minutes? All these excuses again come down to being “Lazy”. There are dozens of other reasons why my fellow prisoners can’t or won’t do what is needed to make changes in this corrupt prison system. The crazy thing is, it will make life in here better for them and help change things so maybe they can go home earlier.

For instance, let a big basketball game or football game, come on TV. Or TV shows like: “Animal Kingdom”, “Queen of the South”, or “Empire” come on, and everyone will break their backs to watch them. While I do not have a problem with sports, what’s more important your well-being, going home or sports? And for the ones who live for those other three TV shows, ask yourselves this question. How is watching them going to improve me? Are they going to help you in any way? Are these TV shows going to make you a better person? A smarter person? Of course the answer is, “No”. But, you will waste three hours a week on these trash ass shows, that will do absolutely nothing for you. But you will not take the time to learn how to write a grievance, that will take five minutes. Isn’t there something wrong with this picture? Oh, and let’s not forget the all mighty, Victor Newman, from the Young and the Restless. Every prison I’ve been to in the state of Texas this past fourteen years has more loyal Young and the Restless fans than every senior citizen home in our country. That’s five hours a week on this trash ass show. And yet, no one will step up to the plate and take five minutes together and write the necessary grievances that can help make things better for everyone. My God, no wonder the Texas prison system treats the prisoners however they want to. No wonder they eat all of our food in front of us. No wonder they have worked all the prisoners to death, cleaning their clothes, cutting their hair, shining their shoes, working in their industries, and plantations. Everyone in prison says, hey this is our table, our benches, and we’ll beat, stab, and kill for this shit. But you’ll work till you drop, and for what? ”Nothing!” It’s the 21st century, and the Texas prison system is still stuck in the slavery days, “clean my boots boy!” And of course, the correct answer is, “yes sir, Boss”.

     I don’t want the inmates to think I’m making fun of them. But, please understand that I truly see there are tens of thousands of good men stuck in here, and I’ve talked about that in dozens of chapters. Someone has to open your eyes to the stupidity of your ways and your thinking. There are so many things that need to be changed inside these Texas prisons. Things that we have the power to change, if the inmates would just sit down together and write grievances. It’s always amazed me to see how the prisoners in Texas will accept something that you would think they would be mad about, but instead go crazy over something that hardly means nothing.

For the last month our trays have been getting worse and worse. Yes, there are many people getting mad and complaining. And as I have said, nothing is being done on paper. But a few nights ago, when a big NBA playoff game came on, between the Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors, the guards tried to rack everyone up at 10:30 pm lock-up. The building I live in, all of the prisoners in cellblocks, D, E, and F of course, got upset and made the guards call a ranking officer. And look what happened, everybody got to finish watching the game. Then the next day at lunch, all kinds of people stopped and spoke to the Warden, and an IOC was put out, so the games could be seen, even if it ran past the time for lock-up. Here is what I am trying to open your eyes to. This basketball game that holds no meaning to anyone, and will not help you in any way shape or form, whatsoever. It is only entertainment.

But, for a lot of prisoners the chow hall is their only source of food, it is the only place we have to eat. And no one is doing shit about it. There should be six or seven hundred grievances in that box. Because not eating a balanced nutritional diet for weeks, months, or years will affect your health. Everyone needs to utilize the grievance system. Learn to talk amongst each other, if you see guards, ranking officers, wardens or any other staff member abusing their position. Never accept mistreatment from anyone. Whether it’s verbal, physical, or mental, you must learn to make a paper trail. Many prisons are literally starving prisoners so they can feed the food that is being sent there for us, to the employees. Wardens are taking the meat and having big cookouts for the staff or family and friends. Remember this, if an inmate takes anything out of the kitchen, he will receive a disciplinary case. But, across the state at least 90% of the prisons, the staff steals the food that is sent there or us.

Remember the only way to make serious changes is to write large amounts of grievances at the same time. Stop complaining about things, stop wasting your time in this place on things that will not benefit you or others at all. Utilize this grievance system, by the hundreds. And also remember; if the prison retaliates back in anyway, once again write hundreds more for retaliation. And, all of the inmates who can get your family or friends to call the Ombudsman Office, do so. Learn to help each other. Stop allowing the Puppetmasters to pit us against each other. We are in here together, and together we can make positive changes.

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