The Puppetmasters (Part 2)

By Jay Goodman


I went back in time in my last installment to explain
 the systemic brutality of the Texas prison system. I wrote about turnkeys who committed all kinds of atrocity in the name of the law, and how all inmates have been treated as slaves by the guards here. One important thing I forgot to mention about that was that in those days, an officer was never addressed by their name in those days. The average inmate didn’t even know an officer’s name. They didn’t even cal them, “Sir.” They were known as “boss”. “Yes, sir, boss.” “No, sir, boss.” Now, tell me that doesn’t sound just like
 a scene from “Cool Hand Luke”.

Here it is, 2017, and they are still called boss man
 or boss lady. Sometimes, it’s hard for me to believe how stuck Texas prisons are in the past. It’s like they can’t
 get out of their minds that the world has moved on past 
the Civil War days. Society changes. Society HAS changed, 
but the TDCJ fights the whole way. Here’s what’s really 
sad about that, I think: Most average Texans, and certainly the state and federal court’s, know exactly how corrupt the TDCJ prison system is. I believe that all of our state representatives and senators are aware of these things as well. 
If they aren’t, they should be, because there are all kinds of groups like Concerned Christians for Inmates, the Prison Justice League, Texas Inmate Family Association, and other Christian and benevolent organizations that fight hard for 
the Texas prisoner. But it seems like no elected official 
or court, is willing to take the first step and say, “Hey! Enough!” There are some brilliantly shining exceptions. My hat is off to Judge Ellison, the federal district court judge who finally took a stand for the inmates suffering serious physical harm from the heat in their living environment, which oft times exceeds 100 degrees all day long in some prison units.

Anyway, let me go back to David Ruiz, the man who filed the civil suit back in the days when the “good ol’ boys” ran the whole system with violence and murder. As I said,
 I am truly surprised that he was allowed to live, but I think they never thought a judge in Texas would side with a mere prisoner. They were shocked when they heard the judge rule that the case had merit and could proceed. At that point, they thought that if they killed Ruiz, it would really expose them and all their evil deeds as being true.

This is what I know for fact, because it’s in the history books: When things started heating up and an actual court date was set to hear what Ruiz has to say, the Puppetmasters- the people running the prison system- went to talk to him. They told Ruiz that if he’d drop his suit, they would let him out of prison. If you want to know why Texas prisoners to this very day think Ruiz is a hero, it’s because he told them thanks, but no thanks. They couldn’t believe it. So, they went back and told him, if he’d drop this suit, they would commute his entire sentence. Again, he said no. Can you imagine being in a prison system run like a medieval dungeon, run by thugs who could and would, at will, beat you or kill you, and having the courage to stand up in the midst of that and say you weren’t going ANYWHERE, that you were going to fight the system? That’s incredible.

So, the big day comes for David Ruiz, and it was an amazing victory that an inmate even made it into federal court.
 To show their support and appreciation, the Texas prisoners did something they haven’t done before or since. Every single man of them, “laid it down”, refusing to go to work that day. No one came out of their cells. No one went to the chow halls. No one moved anywhere. I am positive that all of the officers, the rank, the field bosses and the turnkeys were 
in absolute shock. They’d been so used to intimidating everyone and getting whatever they wanted exactly when they wanted it, that they never saw such a thing coming. I’m sure it
 was an even bigger shock that day that Judge William Wayne Justice ruined for the inmates and ordered the Texas Department of Corrections to get rid of their militant wing- the turnkeys to put in an independent medical department, and establish better living and working conditions. He literally revamped the whole system. No one could believe it, and the inmates
 most of all. It was too good to be true. Think about this,
 the whole prison system was being run by criminals. The Puppetmasters had truly built this system on corruption. 
I hope you don’t believe for one second that this is just
 some angry inmate blowing steam. This is 100% fact. I’ve
 just given you the small version of what’s happened so far. Believe me, the small version.

And after Judge Justice’s ruling, what do you think the TDC did? Remember, this is not some fly-by-night constable or magistrate. This is a federal judge. Put in office by appointment of the President of the United States of America. So, I ask you again, what do you think the TDC did? Here’s what they did- NOTHING! They just sat on their hands, “laying it down” just like the inmates had. They didn’t implement one single of the ordered reforms.
 To me, this makes perfect sense, because I’ve personally witnessed how the TDCJ thinks they are above the law. They basically said, “We don’t care what any court or judge thinks or says. WE run these prisons, and we’ll do whatever we want. We don’t care what any state law says, and we damn sure don’t care what William Wayne Justice says.” And that was the exposing of the bold, ugly truth. That warden had not been so honest in his life as the day he spit in the face of Justice’s order.

So, David Ruiz has to go back to court, and by this time, Judge Justice understands that the TDC won’t do anything 
on their own. The response was drastic and swift, and shook Texas politics down to its core. On Justice’s order, the federal government took over the daily operations of the Texas Department of Corrections.

I can’t help but smile to myself when I think of the utter disbelief, the look on their faces, when the Puppetmasters fully realized that they’d lost- lost the case, and lost control of their precious prison system. Gone were the days when every prisoner had to run at their beck and call. Gone were their personal gardners, and tailors, and body servants. Gone were their horse groomers and cattle hands. 

Federal monitors were put on every unit. The turnkeys were done away with. Sadly, but understandably, there were some prisons where they declared total war on the turnkeys. All the years of abuse had caught up with them, and people started exacting revenge- stabbing and beating and killing some. They were despised and hated for their own hatefulness. There are a few old turnkeys still doing time right here on my unit, and as I’ve watch them over the years, I can still see that same old, hateful heart they had back then. Now, they are bitter and powerless old men. Really, it’s sad.

One of the biggest, and most lasting, changes implemented at that time was an independently run medical deparment. They immediately began to weed through the prisoners, giving the elderly and the infirm certain work restrictions. This in turn helped stop the practice of the field bosses taking their work crews out all day in 100+ degree temperatures and working them until they would drop or die. They made them stop putting the inmates in the tin shed when they couldn’t keep up with the work. The monitors also put the grievance system in and gave it teeth.

The list goes on and on, but this is something very important that happened, and I want to give you readers a full understanding of how this prison system works and came to be. After the feds came in, they sat down with David Ruiz and the other inmates involved in the suit, and they made a deal. Now, every state in the union pays their prisoners to work. It’s not much, but it’s something, and usually enough to get a little something at the commissary or set aside for when the inmate finally gets out. Anyway, the feds and the state authorities sat down with these guys and said, look, we can either pay you in cash OR (and wouldn’t this be great?) we can give you TIME OFF YOUR SENTENCE in exchange for that money; we can give you WORK TIME! Just so you understand, there’s GOOD time, where if you stay out of trouble, and don’t get any discipline cases, you’re supposed to get extra days off of your sentence. You can also lose this good time as discipline for a punishment. Then, there’s WORK time, which these officials told the inmates that if they would work, instead of pay, they would get additional time off their sentences, and that time couldn’t and wouldn’t be taken away regardless. What everyone is told, especially the interested public, and juries in particular, is that the Texas inmates works and behaves himself, then just as soon as his good time days, plus his work time days, plus his actual time-served days added together equal his total sentence, he will be released on parole. And this magical day is called, in TDCJ lingo, the “mandatory release date”.

Ah, the good ol’ TDCJ “BUT”. BUT, that is not the way things worked out. First of all, it didn’t seem to occur
 to anyone that if a prisoner was really getting actual credit for all of these work days and good days, then he shouldn’t be released to parole at ALL. He should completely discharge his sentence. After all, it’s “time OFF” for good behavior, not “time towards parole” for good behavior.

Second, even though they cut this deal, the TDCJ did
 not like the idea of paying its prisoners in any way, shape, or form, even with time off. No one pays their slaves. Pay for an INMATE to shine my shoes? Pay for an INMATE to cut my hair? Pay for an INMATE to wash the skids out of my shorts? Pay for an INMATE to cook his own food in the chow hall? 
Pay for an INMATE to cook MY food in the ODR? Hell, no.

See, to these people, we are nothing but slaves. Remember when I said the toilet paper I clean my ass with is worth more than a grievance? Well, that goes DOUBLE for my “time sheet”, the paper that tells me how much time I’ve earned so I can supposedly go home.

One of the first things they did was to change the law
 so that the parole board could take away the mandatory release date. THEY ACTUALLY CALL THIS THE “DISCRETIONARY MANDATORY RELEASE DATE”! I’m not kidding. Administrative policy and
 law TITLED with an oxymoron, and the lunacy of this is completely lost to them, apparently.

On top of that, few, if any, inmates are actually released when their good time + work time + actual time = 100% of sentence. My friend, Powers has, I’m not kidding, 220% of his time served. He has 12 years, flat. He has 12 years of good time- never lost a single day! He has 9 years of good time- the most he can have. He’s 33 years into his 15-year sentence!

The people that truly run these prisons, the Puppetmasters, knew that once the feds cam in, they’d lost. Now they realized that the ONLY way to get their golden eggs back was to go along, at least for a little while, with what the feds were doing. Let the manipulation begin.

In my next installment, I’ll show you what Texas did from that moment until this very day, and then you will be able to understand why I call these people the Puppetmasters.

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