New Prison System

by Jay Goodman

Even though I was finally out of the Texas prison system and on my way to an Ohio prison to face a parole violation from the 1980s, I must admit all that I had seen and went through was still weighing on me. No one can leave the Texas prison system after decades and not be changed. As the jet landed at the Cleveland airport around 1030 that night, my mind was racing overtime. I was excited to be out of prison in Texas, but a little overwhelmed with seeing how much things have changed. Remember I had been in jail for 15 years and three months. I was at my last prison in Cuero Texas for 11 years straight. So, to be out flying from airport to airport and walking around thousands of people was overwhelming needless to say. I was excited, happy, and nervous all at the same time. The transportation officer Mr. Gonzalez and I walked to the Rent-A-Car area, there was a car waiting for him and we were off to the Loriann Correction Center. It took less than an hour to get there, by now it was almost midnight. Because it was so late, they acted like they couldn’t take me, but after I call to the word and they decided it was all right. Mr. Gonzalez thanked me for all my help and he shook my hand good night. He promised to read my books and left. I was taking straight to a quarantine sale and locked in. I made my bed and laid there thinking about my day, so much has changed. The two different cars I was in talk to us, and gave Mr. Gonzalez directions everywhere. Hell, even his telephone spoke to me. Technology had grown way more advanced than I realized, I close my eyes and try to get some rest.

I was in a sell by myself which is always a plus. When I left Texas yesterday it was 90°, when I got up my first morning and looked out my cell window it was snowing. Oh, and freezing cold. What a change, my body was not used to cold weather. I found out my first morning that the prison was on lockdown because of COVID-19. I would have to sit in isolation for several days before I was moved to a cell block. They brought all of our meals to us, medications also. We were taken out of our cells one at a time to take showers. My first day they slid a tablet under my cell door, I had no idea what it was. When I asked the officer, she smiled and left. When they came back in an hour to get it, I asked again what it was for? She saying I was not joking and said “oh my God, you’re serious? I thought you were just playing.” I told him I had been in prison in Texas for over 15 years. Anyway, they showed me how to work it. I thought how nice it was to get a tablet for an hour every day so we could call her family. Remember I spent my first five years in the Texas prisons without phones, so to see these tablets it was truly amazing. Also, another big thing I seen was prisoners could have their facial hair, and they shave anyone’s hair like Texas did. Also, as of a whole most of the staff was pretty respectful. I was so used to seeing a few guards that had some sense, it was a big change talking with guards that were not trained to hate all of the prisoners. To leave the environment I’ve been living in for the last 15 years and come here was quite a big change.

After 17 days I was removed to the cell block next-door, and was put in a cell with a guy named Read. He was a young guy in his early 30s, but he had a good head on her shoulders. There was around 100 men in the cell block and because of COVID-19 we were only allowed out of our sells for one hour a day. They let around 10 to 12 sells out at a time, and during this hour we’d have to take a shower and call our family. Everything else was brought to ourselves. Oliver meals, mail, and commissary came to us, 23 hours a day just sitting there without anything to do.

Another big thing that surprised me, they had a machine called J-Pay, it allowed prisoners to send emails and receive them from our family. We could also send and receive a 30 second video Graham, we could send cards with our letters, and we could get video visits. Naturally all of this was amazing to me, I had never sent a text in my life. The first time I got on the JPay machine a friend of mine had to help me, and to my surprise I already receive letters from my daughter, cousin, and a friend. What a big difference from the Texas prison system than Ohio. While both our prisons, it’s plain to see one is focused on punishing the prisoners and their family, by separating them from each other.

What do people of Texas don’t understand is that when men and women go to jail that is their punishment. Believe me, when someone is stripped of all their freedoms, and are put in a place hundreds, if not thousands of miles away from everyone they know and love, that alone is a big punishment in itself.

They did take the cell block I lived in to the gym once a week for an hour and a half. I saw right away the craziness about this COVID-19 quarantine they were doing even in Ohio. I mean I get putting everyone in quarantine when they arrive. But once they are moved out of the quarantine why keep the prisoners confined to their cell 23 hours a day? They were letting all the cell block go to the gym together, so why not allow us access to the cell block more? Normally most pressures are at this prison for 6 to 8 weeks, but because of COVID-19 no one was getting shipped to the prison they be serving their time at. I understand COVID-19 is real, but if no one is sick, let prison life go on. It’s not like it would hurt allowing prisoners more time out in the cell block they live in. I was told even by the guards this quarantine was not even necessary except when a person arrived. What use is it after you’re moved out of quarantine? The prisoners have no contact with inmates from other cell blocks, and the guards have to have their temperature taken every day. As happy as I was to get out of Texas, I was quick to see that even Ohio was taking advantage of the COVID-19 to basically keep all the prisoners locked up. One of the nurses told me that the prison got more funding because of COVID-19. Plus, by keeping everyone locked down that’s less work for the prison staff.

I understand the need for safety, without a doubt there is a need to monitor what’s going on at each prison. But you keep everyone locked up 23 hours a day, without no visits, barely feeding us, no TV, not even giving us books to read, when no one is even sick, it’s a bit much. It’s amazed me to see how every place I’ve went has taken advantage of the COVID-19 and abused it in every way possible. I would finally see the adult parole board a month after I arrived. Since my case in Ohio was from the 1980s, they didn’t have my file because everything now is on disk, and I guess my file had not been updated. So now I would have another month of virtual isolation besides my one hour a day. I noticed there is a big difference between the prisoners in Ohio then Texas. Prisoners in Ohio seem to customer guards a lot more. Well, it happens in Texas too, but it usually only happens in Texas when a guard really got out of line. In Ohio, I noticed they seem to cuss all of the staff. What was surprising is they would act this way with the guards that were cool to everyone. The women seem to take the most abuse of them all.

There was also a lot to adjust to for me, I was happy to be out of the Texas prison system, I was grateful I could send emails and use tablets to call home. But I had to adjust my thinking to these new types of prisoners. You see, I came from the most corrupt prison system in our country. I understood how blessed we were that this prison system gave us all that they did. Yes, the 23 hours a day was wrong but it was the people who run the prison system who implemented the 23 hours, not the guards. Anyway, as the months went by the guards noticed I was a quiet person, who always had spoken with a lot of respect. Then one day after I’ve been there for several months there was a guy Who moved in our cell block from Mexico who could not speak English. I just so happen to be out for my one hour and was able to help this card because I speak Spanish. Afterword’s he asked me if I’d like to work. Each cell block had for porters who would clean, I said sure. It was also about this time the guards found out I wrote a book called “Angie’s Story,” which also help me get out of my cell a little more. Especially from the ones who read it. As I would have to wait another month to find out my feet with the parole board. I was trying to adjust to this new prison system. I also realize that even though I was out of prison in Texas, it would take a while to get Texas out of my head.

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