TDCJ Gets Even

By Mike Powers

In three days, I will have been waiting on my parole answer for four weeks- a whole month. Of course, that’s not fun, but then again, it’s better than NOT waiting on an answer, right? After all, at least I’m “in the process”, and not sitting around killing time. Also, I’m doing my sentence on this amazing unit here in Diboll. I’m not like my poor friend Kenny who recently got transferred off this nice, a/c unit to a dusty camp down in the Rio Grand Valley.

Kenny had a good life here, and he needed it, because he had some medical issues that would confound lesser men. First of all, he had a wheat allergy. Aaaaarrrggghhhh! If I got one of those, I’d just beg for a merciful death. Better than slow starvation. On top of that, Kenny had a thyroid imbalance. I never even knew this about him, though, until just a couple of weeks before he left.

When I first got here last August, I met Kenny at the church. He was one of the sound technicians and a truly gifted individual. He was an electronics whiz and could seemingly heal any broken device with a touch of his fingers.

Not only that, but Ken was committed to growing in Christ. He attended regular church services and was part of several Bible study classes. He was leading an active and productive life, even behind bars here. I noticed he was in the diet line every day, but I just attributed that to a health-conscious lifestyle. It certainly wasn’t for any weight problem, because he was slim and trim. Then, one day, there were some donuts at one of the Bible classes the volunteer had brought for us, and Ken couldn’t eat of them. It’s hard for me to imagine life without donuts, so I really felt for him. On the other hand, maybe you don’t miss what you never had anyway. So, apart from this, Ken seemed like a perfectly normal and highly functioning person.

Then, a couple of months ago, I noticed Ken was not himself. He came to class, and he was moping around, head down, lethargic. I said, “Man, Ken. Are you feeling under the weather?” “No,” he replied. “They changed my thyroid medicine for no reason, and now I’m all messed up.” Sure enough, as I learned more about the situation, the nurse practitioner on this unit had, without his knowledge or prompting, looked at Ken’s medical history and decided to change the amount of medicine he was receiving for his thyroid illness.

I’d never known anyone with that condition before, but the slight change in Kenny’s medicine made a night and day difference. Ken could barely drag himself to class and was missing church services.

As soon as Ken found out about the change, he scheduled an appointment to get his medicine back. The doctor basically told Ken he didn’t know what he was talking about and sent him packing.

Ken scheduled a second appointment with another provider, and he got the same run around. After that, he went through the TDCJ-provided grievance system. You readers are already well familiar with how effective that system is, so I won’t tire you with the details, but it got him nowhere...for two months it got him nowhere.

Finally, in desperation, Ken called his wife and told her what was happening to him. She, of course, was livid. She started the TDCJ-provided complaint process for families of incarcerated individuals, and this would be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

You see, the only thing the TDCJ hates worse than being criticized is knowing that the criticism is true. And worse, it’s coming from a lowly family member of a convict. That’s what they see, but they miss that their prisons are full of educated people From articulate families, and they couldn’t stand that this woman was standing up to them to protect her husband’s quality of life, even if he WAS a prisoner.

Soon after she filed her complaint, Ken left the unit on medical chain. It was explained to him that the unit could no longer provide the level of care he needed for his medical condition. They didn’t explain to him or anyone else, however, how they had spent months on end providing just the right level of care he needed, and then for no reason, changed his meds on him.

After a trip to Galveston for “evaluation”, Ken was reassigned to another I.D. unit down south. That unit doesn’t have a/c and happens to be almost 200 miles further away from Ken’s home than this unit was. Isn’t that convenient?

It doesn’t take a rock science or a Sherlock-trained detective to surmise that the TDCJ got really pissed off at having some inmate tell them how to run their prison, much less his know-it-all wifey, so we’ll show him how we run things around here, and, oh, by the way, here’s your new housing assignment. No matter how you slice it, TDCJ is playing dirty.

Now, I hope that the “take away” that you get from this is NOT to keep your mouth shut if you think TDCJ is screwing over someone you love that is incarcerated. Especially if their life may be in danger. In fact, it’s the exact opposite TDCJ has gotten away with so much for so long precisely because they know how to operate in the shadows. So, the best hope for change is exposure, bringing their deeds of darkness out into the light.

If anything like this has happened to your incarcerated loved one, don’t stop at the complaint process. Call your state senator and state representative. Call your local newspaper. Join an inmate family advocacy group like TIFA or CURE. You are not alone in your battle against a system that seems to care less about how you feel, or about whether a life you love is in danger.

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