Troubling Deeds

I'd like to tell you about some things in here that can get you in real trouble, and things I see all the time that the officers here don't seem to care about at all. To be honest, I think some of them will surprise you, because, if you think about these things anything like I do, you'd think that violating the zero-tolerance policy of sexual activity or smoking K2- synthetic marijuana- would be serious breaches of the rules around here, or in any prison. But the reality doesn't seem to bear this out.

Two weeks ago, the dorm was wakened by a commotion a little after 3o o'clock in the morning. Officer Filip was conducting the count time, and he must have caught the two offending offenders by surprise, because when he got to their cubicle, they were clearly engaged in homosexual activity. There is actually a law on the books of the Texas Government Code that clearly states that the TDCJ MUST take a zero-tolerance stance against ANY sexual activity of the prisoners. This is part of the state's effort to make sure that there"^is-ifo prison rape or sexual harassment. Doing his job, Correctional Officer Filip called an ICS(Incident Command System) over his radio, and secured the offenders. There was no doubt in his mind, of the minds of the neighboring prisoners, that he had caught these individuals redhanded... or red-whatevered. Back-up arrived along with Filip's supervisors. They took the two men into custody and led them out of the dorm. Those of us who watched all this transpire in the middle of the night thought for sure that we had seen the last" of at least one, and probably both, of these two.

Interestingly, BOTH of them were back in the dorm in a couple of hours. One of them didn't receive any kind of case at all. The other one received a case for being "out of place" during count-time, which is a big step down from engaging in sexual conduct. An out of place case can be graded major or minor, depending on the circumstances. It turns out this case was graded minor. Wow. What a lucky day for him! Not only that, but neither of these individuals was moved out of the dorm, so, to this very minute, they are free to try again. The rest of us were mystified.

Other officers filled out some of the details we were missing. Apparently, when an incident like this occurs, there is official Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) paper work that needs to be filled out. It seems, also, that by the time they had the individuals in custody and had all the facts of the case, it was too close to the 6 o'clock shift change to start a bunch of paperwork of this nature. For any future miscreants, I guess you better look for that 3-hour sweet-spot at the end of the 12-hour shift that marks the free-reign period of the day.

Beyond the violations of Texas and federal law, what really bothers me about this is that when others saw they could get away with it, the love-fest began. The "two" have become a small group. )But why would the supervisors and administra tors who let these guys slide give a rip? THEY don't have to live here .

About a week after this incident, a guy named Joe was busted for having a remote control. Now, none of us are supposed to have a remote control, because then we would be able to control our own TVs, and that, my friend, is just not acceptable in the TDCJ. By comparison, my county jail in Tarrant didn't have any remotes. You'd just walk up to the TV and turn it up or down, or change the channel if everyone wanted to watch something else.

I can't tell you how Joe came up with this remote. I don't know if he stole it, which seems unlikely because they are well-secured when not in use. I don't know if he. bribed a guard to give it to him, which is the most likely scenario. I don't know if h^madd:itiTfrom scratch with his 3-D printer.(Least likely, since we can't have computers.) However he got it, for the three months I've been in this wing so far, anytime we couldn't hear the TV or wants! to watch something else, and couldn't get the COs to come in and give us a channel-check, well, Joe was our guy. Instead of CAUSING problems, like the boys. ,in charge fear, %t actually solved a lot of them. Instead of fighting about what channel it needed to be on to catch a movie starting three hours from now, we'd just watch X until Y came on and flip the channel.

Now, don*t get me wrong. Joe's a rascal, and some of the other shenanigans he was into was bound to get him in trouble sooner or later. He knew he wasn't supposed to have a remote. We all did. But, hey, if you can slap skin with your same-sex neighbor and it's all good, surely a little channel surfing isn't going to hurt anyone. The powers-thatbe didn't see it the same way, unfortunately for our friend, Joe. He was slapped with a major disciplinary case, and the only reason he stayed on the dorm for the next three days is because his sin was committed on a Friday, too late to make a move before the weekend. At his hearing, they threw the book at him with a maxed-out punishment. Seemingly, they had all the time in the world to fill out the paper work on this one. Maybe we need a Prison Remote Elimination Act.

But careless disregard for prison rape is bnlycone prob lem around here. You've already read about the enormous problem we have on this unit, and really, in units all across Texas, with K2. We've got it better here than most, but you can still find the junk in every dorm here. There's WAY too much of it for it to be coming in through visitation. Nope. Officers are bringing it in and padding their retirement accounts with the proceeds. Which might explain the following account I was given as I talked with one of the veteran officers on this farm. He was doing the walk^ around, which is the duty that involves walking the perimeter inside the fence and making sure all fire-exit doors and gates are secured. These doors have windows allowing obser vation of the dayroom activities inside the dorms.

The CO told me that he was checking a fire door the other night, and one of the strictest lieutenants that works on this unit happened to be coming in the main door of the dorm on the far side of the dayroom. The CO watched as two inmates who had been smoking K2 on one of the benches right in front of his eyes,desperately tried putting out the smokes before the lieu could get close enough to figure out who was smoking. As he told me this story, he was just laughing himself ~silly at how foolish the inmates looked trying to put out these sticks. The whole time, I'm thinking, Well thanks for working so hard to get this crap off the unit, buddy. I'm glad he got such a kick out it, but why wouldn't he at least make his presence known to these fel lows himself, so they'd put the junk out? Moreover, why wouldn't he call in an ICS over the radio, and apprehend the men who were using illegal narcotics right in plain sight. This ain't jaywalking or speeding 5 miles per hour over the limit. This is DRUGS, dude! But of course, why would this guy roll his own customers? I mean, he's probab ly going to be able to buy a nice fishing boat when he retires off the income from the toochy-heads. I know he's not letting them make it just because he's a nice guy. If he was really looking out for them, he'd hold them accountable for what they were doing, so maybe- just maybe- they might have a chance to make it when they finally get out of this prison and start trying to make a life on the other side of the fence.

So, if the cops around here don't care about drugs or rape, let's take a look at some of the things that really get their juices flowing. From the looks of it, one of the most menacing threats we face on this unit is the clothes line.

From the time they get here at 6AM to the time they leave 12 hours later, first shift fanatically enforces the no-clothes line policy. We actually have a property officer on our unit, Ms. Ordonez, who takes this task so seriously that she will go dorm to dorm throughout the unit looking for sinks with washing in them and confiscating the clothes. I guess I just can't understand how truly dangerous these clothes must be, but I don't need to. As long as I'm on the Stevenson Unit, drying clothes won't get me killed. Perhaps they have the rule to make sure that no dug through a wall is obscured by a drying sheet. I could understand this, but the rule is enforced regardless of whether the covered wall is interior or exterior. I mean, we KNOW which walls are which here. I've seen some dumb inmates, but I seriously doubt any of them are going to put that much effort in to getting into the cell next door. when they could just wait an hour or so for the next in and out.

Another biggie is having your shirt off in the common areas of the dorm. We are allowed to occupy our cells in whatever state of undress suits our fancy as long as we don't run around naked. But taking your shirt off in the dayroom of a Stevenson Unit dorm is like cracking jokes about bombs in the wait line of airport security. You just don't do it. Remember, this isn't a "public" area. We don't get any vistors around here, and surely the lady-guards can't be offended by this, since they see us sitting atop the pots all day long, anyway. I seriously have no explanation for why this would bother the matall. After all,it's well known that these dorms get over 100 degrees for weeks at a time in the summer months. When you're dying from heat exhaustion,taking off your shirtis the only smart thing to do. Nope. Not permissible. Not going to allow it. I guess we have to foster some modesty in these offenders. By the way, be sure to strip down to the birthday suit on your way out to rec!

We even have one officer who gets outraged whenever she sees a Christi an prayer circle. There is a rule that offenders can't congregate in groups of more than four at a time. This rule is designed to prevent gang activity. Fair enough. But, I don't think a prayer circle or Bible study is what they had in mind. Gang-bangers usually don't conduct their business with theire yes closed and holding their neighbors' hands. Get caught doing this with Ms. Patterson working your building, and you will get a case. What is it they say? Common sense isn't so common.

One of the worst examples of the kind of thing I'm telling you about is the way "Code 20" violations are handled. A Code 20 is a masturbation case. In the free world, if you get caught by an officer jacking off in a public place, and definitely towards a certain individual,you will be arrested and charged with a crime. If another person is involved, it will probably be a felony.So,if you are an exhibitionist, can I just tell you that the TDCJ is the place for you! Firs to fall,you will be told,not asked,to get naked all the time. Whoopee! And don't worry about that silly rule that says you can't masturbate, because Blue Laws have a better chance of getting enforced around here than those silly rules do .

I can't even tell you how many decent, female guards around here have had to put up with inmates assaulting them like this, and nothing ever happens,at least until the next time the inmate gets the urge. Why in the hell you'd let a rule like this go unenforced is beyond me.

As you can see, it's a different world inside these walls, and many times, it's hard to make sense of it based on any boundaries or reasoning we've acquired in a normal upbringing.

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