Virulogical Penology

by Mike Powers

Truth is, I'm sure, you've been wondering how the TDCJ is managing this Wuhan Flu Pandemic, that is, if you are any regular reader of these articles at all. And the answer is, as usual, not well. I'll get more into that in a second, but not without telling you right up front that, by the grace of God, there hasn't been a single case on our unit or, as far as I know, anywhere in the TDCJ. In fact, it was only just today that I heard there were five positive tests in the Dallas County jail. Hopefully, they'll catch any carriers before they are chained into the state prison system.

Sadly, it is not very often that I can speak with much appreciation of the work that the average-Joe correctional officers are doing in here. It's worse than "a bad apple spoils the barrel" and more like "can ANYone find at least one good apple in this here barrel?". But in this time of crisis, while the logistics of the TDCJ response have been terrible, the work ethic of the officers had been more than commendable. It has been admirable. One thing about three million new unemployment claims in the U.S. last month someone out there is going to read the wanted ads on the back of the prison busses and come looking for a job. So hang in there overworked TDCJ guards! Help is on the way.

Let me get into the nitty gritty of how one of the most illogical and unwieldly institutions on the planet, the Texas state prison system, has responded to the crisis. The first inkling that there WOULD be a response at all was when Governor Greg Abbott ordered that the schools be closed until further notice. All of a sudden, the Windham Independent School District was forced to close its doors. The exact same day that it became too dangerous for people to gather in class- rooms or, for that matter, in groups of fifteen or more, the "therapeutic community" in my dorm continued to hold its two-hour long afternoon meeting. They squeezed all 84 of us inmates into chairs no more than four inches apart, ensuring, pretty much, that if there HAD been one single positive carrier of the Wuhan virus, I'm pretty sure every single other inmate in our dorm would have gotten it. These meetings continued for three days after the governor's order. Then they stopped. I mean, everything stopped. Even the program sessions. Apparently, someone with the weight and intelligence to do something about it had figured out that it made no sense to cancel school if people were being crammed into sardine cans for therapy. That was on a Thursday.

The following Monday, I woke up early and got prepared for my day, just I always do. We were called to the dayroom to wait for our boss, just like we always do. And then, the assistant manager of the factory came to the door and told us the garment factory would be on skeleton crew. She called the names of the several inmates she wanted. (I wasn't one of them), and the rest of us went back into our cells. An hour later, at seven in the morning when the dayroom is supposed to open, well.., it didn't. They came in about thirty minutes late and let out one-fourth of the residents They gave us a big speech about not sitting any more than one person per table or two persons to a bench one at each end. Each quarter would be given two hours of dayroom time and then racked back in their cells. I happened to be in the first quarter, so I got to take my shower and watch some Fox News before getting put back in my cell.

When lunchtime came (ready for this?), they opened all the doors and put all the inmates in the dayroom to wait for chow. If you're thinking that that kind of defeated the purpose of the whole rest of the spiel, well, I'd have to day you're absolutely right. But Wait! There's more! A "shot" of offenders is usually between 15 and 20 people. Shot by shot, the CO’s working our building stuffed the deep space with all twenty offenders. THEN, remembering what they were supposed to be pretending like they were doing, they made us walk to the chow hall no less than six feet away from the offenders in front of and behind us. When we arrived at the chow hall, we went inside and waited in line... inches away from the offenders all around us. But I felt safer again when we were seated ONE TO A TABLE! Now, you need to know that I haven't eaten a meal in the chow hall seated by myself the whole time I've been locked up 15 years so that's a pretty big deal. After I finished eating, I made my way to the exit to find that there were already about 40 men ahead of me scrunched up at the door. After catching anything in the chow hall that COULD be caught, we hit the sidewalk again, a nice safe distance from every- one around us. When we got back to the dorm, something had happened inside, and we were made to wait at the door. I'm not kidding when I tell you that by the time the door opened, there were at least a hundred of us out on the entryway from all three wings on the building. Momma always taught us to share, right?

This kind of stuff has been going on all week, now. I won't bore you with all the detailed stupidity. Now hear this, people. If you have any doubt as to what your life will look like if we elect a socialist or a pseudo-socialist to the highest office of the land, look no further than the TDCJ response to the Wuhan Flu. The right-hand doesn't 'know what the left hand is doing. Worse, it doesn't even know there IS a left hand. John robs Peter to pay Paul. And if that ain't enough mixed metaphors, the bureaucrats can't find their own tushy with both hands tied behind their back. You getting the picture? I know you are.

In the meantime, we got word that we'll be going back to therapy, only this time, our classes will meet once a week instead of twice, but only with half the students in each group. Well, progress is progress. After all, we surely don't want TDCJ missing $90,000 per inmate just because there's a world-wide pandemic.

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