Surviving Another Deadly Summer in the Death House

By Jay Goodman

Here it is August of 2019, I am literally cooking in my oven, that the Texas prison system calls a cell. We call these cells, the “Death House”. Because since 1998, until 2014, when a lawsuit was brought by prisoners at the Pack Unit, in Navasota, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has reported 23 deaths, due to heat related causes. Though the difficulty of pinning a heat-related cause to a death means the actual number is likely higher. A 2014 report by the University of Texas school of Law’s Human Rights Clinic, documented at least 14 heat-related prisoner deaths, in TDCJ facilities, since 2007 alone.

I have written several chapters about the heat and the programs they came up with, called Respite. Respite, of course came about because the federal U.S. District Court Judge, Keith P. Ellison, who I might add is normally conservative jurist. Overseeing a lawsuit by prisoners, he ordered the TDCJ lawyers to disclose the number of heat-related prisoner deaths-which is something they refused to do during the discovery process. And when they were forced to finally answer, that 23 prisoners had died that they knew of. He then asked the lawyers, what they implemented to keep this from happening again? They answered, “nothing”. So, this is what the Texas prisons came up with, “Respite”.

I laugh, when I think of the Puppetmasters and their lawyers standing in front of Judge Ellison, looking like the ignorant, hateful, no caring, whatsoever idiots, that they are, when he told them to come up with something for the prisoners. But of course, the Puppetmasters never had any real intentions of creating something that would truly become a lifesaving tool. Respite, was something that would appease the judge and make it look like they were going to do something to help us from cooking to death. Any place in the United States that did not care for human beings, that would allow them to die, when they have the means to stop it, would be shut down immediately. Well, any place but Texas. Texas believes they are above the law, and they care less if the men and women that are incarcerated in their prison system cook to death. They will be quick to say, “that’s not true”. That they have taken steps, such as, security wellness checks, cool down showers, and respite. Which respite, is a room that has A/C, so we can sit and cool our bodies down. From April until October, we are supposed to be allowed to use these tools of survival, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

There was a “Heat Directive” e-mail sent to all TDCJ officials in 2017, dictating that, “during extreme temperatures, prisoners must be allowed access to respite areas”. All of this was created, not because of the dozens of people that have died, this was created because they stood in front of a U.S. Federal Judge, telling them to develop something that would stop us from being cooked to death.

Please note, that even though the Puppetmasters have known for decades that inmates were dying from the heat, they never made the smallest of effort to stop it. Those are the kinds of people who control this prison system. Before this lawsuit was filed by prisoners, it did not make a damn to people running it, that they were killing their prisoners. This is an institution, and there are hundreds of thousands of men and women, in their care; Our lives depend on them making the right decision. Why I do Understand that mistakes will happen, but people in their position, are, I’m assuming somewhat educated, and supposed to learn from their mistakes, and do whatever is needed to ensure something like, cooking us to death, never happens again. They can never say they didn’t know, because they are the ones who told the federal judge, that 23 people died, due to heat-related causes.

What’s sad is, they knew this, and never implemented anything to stop it. Also, why nobody has brought this up, I would like to point out something I feel is very important. I have seen on the news, every single year, where children have died, because their parents forgot them in a hot car. And even though this was a tragic accident, they are still charged with the death of their child.

Well, since the people that run the Texas prisons were fully aware of all the people dying from the heat, and did nothing to stop it, why haven’t they been held accountable? Our lives are controlled by a third party. And since they allowed us to keep dying year after year that means it was, no accident, they intentionally let dozens, truly hundreds, of people die without so much attempting to make changes.

In 2011 alone, 10 prisoners died in a 26 day span, from July to August, what was done? Nothing! This is what I don’t understand about the people who Control the state of Texas. You would think our senators, state representatives, and our Governor, would be asking questions, and firing everyone at the top of this Texas prison system. You would think they would of been doing everything in their power to ensure that no one else is baked to death. I mean, we are not talking about one man who died accidentally, 23 people had died that their admitting to, when the heat lawsuit was filed in 2014, at the Pack Unit. 10 of those in 2011, but the state of Texas never implemented nothing. These politicians, our elected officials, have turned their heads to this problem from the beginning.

Since the first chapter, I have explained how the Puppetmasters are criminals. I have shown over and over how this, “criminal organization”, has grown, from 20 prisons, into way over one hundred prisons. They have used us as slaves from day one, and now it’s an industry. A legalized, criminalized slave industry, that can do anything they want to us. Now I have to wonder, are all of the Texas elected officials involved with this? And before they all say, “that’s absurd”, then why would you allow the men and women in your state prisons to be killed by the dozens, and make absolutely no changes? Because, what’s absolutely absurd, is after the deaths of 10 prisoners in 2011, not one damn thing was done. Ten people died in 26 days, all from the heat. And if it wasn’t bad enough the director of the Texas prisons never did anything, but all of our Texas officials never stepped in and used their power to ensure not one more person would die. Our Texas officials should of been infuriated with what had happened, and even more infuriated with the director of these prisons, when he never made any changes whatsoever. It took another six years for these idiots to come up with, Respite. 23 people have died from the heat, 10 in 2011 alone, and finally six years later, Respite, is invented.

It’s enough to make me infuriated, and sad too. Because, if it wasn’t for the Federal Judge Ellison, we would not even have Respite, now. Because, the prison officials have proven they do not care if we die by the dozens, and from the looks of it, it seems our elected officials are in the Puppetmasters’ pocket. And as for our Respite program now? It’s run like a joke.

It says in the heat lawsuit filed in federal court, if you want to look it up, it’s, Civil Action No. 4:14-CV-1698. The prison system states that inmates can access all of the respite areas at any time, on request, and that they can stay for as long as they want. Notice, it also says, “offenders are granted access to one of these areas on request, without exception”. On our bulletin board this year 2019, there is a memo from the director of the Texas prison system, which says that, Respite is open 24 hours a day, from April to October, that we can stay in these areas for as long as we would like. But, in reality here is what’s going on.

A lot of the time at the Stevenson Unit in Cuero, Texas, the ranking officers will close it. Or put us in a room that is only meant to hold 17 people, per fire marshal, they will put 34 to 40 people in it, where there’s not only no room to sit, but there’s no room to stand either. Even though there’s two big class rooms to put us in, in our education building. Why? To discourage us from going. When they do open it at the infirmary for us, they’ll put someone in charge of it, like an old woman that will complain and bitch, and try their hardest to make it unpleasant as possible so people will either leave, or stop going. Or they’ll find reasons to write disciplinary cases, stupid cases, like, you have a shadow on your face, your shoe strings are not tied, your pants legs are folded, anything to aggravate the prisoners, so they’ll leave and won’t want to come back. Next, the ranking officers will tell certain inmates that they’re going to start shipping everyone that uses Respite. Knowing these prisoners are going to tell the others who they hope will get worried and stop going.

Last month in July, I was sitting in respite with a friend of mine named Bernal, and one of the old hateful women who work here said, I’ll be happy when all of you are shipped this week. The rank even have the guards trying this scare tactic. Or this is another tactic used by some of the male guards: what, you of all people are going to respite? I thought you were a lot tougher than that. Or, everyone who comes down here are a bunch of pussy’s. They will use anything they can to discourage the prisoners from going. Because, I’m damn sure smart enough to know that all of these guards naturally leave work and go to their A/C cars, to their A/C home, they will eat a nice dinner in A/C, go to sleep in A/C. Which I’m happy for them, it’s over a hundred degrees every day. I do not want to see anyone sick or die, because of the heat. Us on the other hand are sitting around our day rooms, dorms, and our cells, that are way over one hundred degrees. We eat in it, sit in it all day, and try to sleep in it. Months, and months, and months, of it until our minds and bodies are so tired and fatigued the smallest of tasks are difficult. Our minds shut down, our bodies shut down, and every day you see people being taken to the infirmary, because they’re unable to move, or they collapse.

Here we are, years into this Respite program, and instead of encouraging everyone to go to Respite, They do everything in their power to discourage people. Dozens of grievances are written, but, our Warden Gonzales stamps the same thing each time. Insufficient evidence. After all these deaths, they admit to 23, but truthfully, they know just like we do there has been hundreds of deaths, because of the heat. And since they know it and do nothing to stop it. That makes them all, “murderers”.

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