Wardens Make the Difference

By Jay Goodman

After 14 years in prison and being moved around from prison to prison, it’s easy to see that there is nothing on most wardens’ minds except, abusing their position in every way possible. Oh yes, and of course stealing. Every now and then, you’ll see a warden who at least cares enough to make sure we are not being put in a position that could kill us.

Since I was moved to this prison in Cuero, Texas ten years ago, I have seen many wardens come and go. I have seen wardens that create trouble by starting their own personal rules on the prisoners. And I have seen wardens create problems amongst the guards and ranking officers as well, because they cracked down on them. It seems every warden that comes here has their own agenda on what they believe is right or wrong. With the warden, there is no right or wrong way. They believe, since they are the Chief, they can do or treat the staff and prisoners however they want. There is always the belief that they are untouchable, because almost all of them are handpicked by the Puppetmasters. Then, a few times I have seen wardens come here who actually tried to make a difference.

The last two wardens that came here were much different than what we had experienced in the past. The warden that was here before them was Warden Beard, who’s sole purpose it seemed, was to steal everything he could. The last Warden was a lady named, Warden Castro, and the Assistant Warden was a man named, Assistant Warden Garza. These two were a breath of fresh air, after a year and a half with Warden Beard. Ex-Warden Beard finally got caught with five deep freezers full of meat, plus large-amounts of other items he had stolen from the Food Bank of Cuero. He truly starved us, while he had big parties at his house. Also, he pretty much allowed the staff to do and treat us however they wanted. A lot of false disciplinary reports were written in his time. The Heat Lawsuit was going on during his days with us. Even though in 2017, a heat directive e-mail was sent to all the Texas prisons, dictating, during extreme temperatures, prisoners must be allowed access to respite areas. Warden Beard knew first hand, after thirty years in the system, the dangers of prisoners being cooked to death. And yet, ignored the dozens of human beings that Texas had murdered and trained all of his staff to make respite a terrible place to go to. The exact words of a guard to us in respite were, “they tell us to make respite as unpleasant as possible, so you all won’t go.” Ex-Warden Beard was truly a scumbag.  After he was finally caught and forced to retire, we soon received two new wardens.

Head Warden Castro and Assistant, Warden Garza - Castro had been here before as a Major but now had come back as the Head Warden. As I said before, after a year and a half with Beard, Castro and Garza were a blessing. The first thing they did, was make damn sure respite was open 24 hours a day. I had asked Warden Garza, if he would come by my cell around five o’clock in the afternoon, which he did. I lived on the west wall, of my cell block, and the hundred and four-degree sun would come into my cell, from two in the afternoon until around 8:30 pm, literally cooking all of the inmates to death. I showed Mr. Garza our problem and asked permission to cover up our windows during this time of the day. Both Garza and Castro, gave us the OK. Through the years, I tried and tried to get the wardens to allow us to cover our windows, and was always told, NO. So, for all of us, this was a big victory.

Next, we have always had a big problem having enough ice water to drink. There are 84 prisoners in my cellblock, and we only had one ten gallon cooler. So once the cooler was filled, not everyone was able to get ice water. And, if we asked for more water the guards would get mad and bitch at us. Most would refuse to come back and open the door where we could fill our cooler up. I’m talking about in the hottest part of the day, way-over one hundred degrees. Prisoners families started calling the Unit and bingo, both Warden Castro and Garza, put another cooler in each cell block. Plus made damn sure our coolers had plenty of ice and water. They even had the ranking officers coming inside the cell blocks checking each cooler and getting on the guards' asses if we didn’t have ice water. Another victory for us. Then Warden Garza decided to retire. Shortly after that Warden Castro was transferred to another prison.

Right before this summer started, two new wardens showed up. The Head Warden’s name is Furr, and the Assistant Warden is Gonzales. So far Warden Furr seems quiet, and looks like he is allowing the Assistant Warden Gonzales, to do most of the running around. The problem with Assistant Warden Gonzales, is he seems to want to run the prison very aggressively. He has a look on his face like he’s mad at the world. A friend of mine named Mario, tried to ask him a question and was told, “do you know who I am?” Mario. said, “yes sir”. He then replied, “Then get the F away from me.” Besides being aggressive and rude, we are starting to see that our respite isn’t being run 24 hours a day. We had our first yearly lockdown, starting May 28th, and from the 30th until June 9th, they closed respite for everyone. Even though the temperatures were in the upper 90’s, with the heat index between 107 to 110 degrees. Everyone we asked about respite said, “it’s closed." When we asked, "Why?", the guards and ranking officers would say, “Warden Gonzales.” They would open our cell doors and let us come out into the dayroom and say that was respite. My friend asked the guards and ranking officers how this is respite; there’s no air conditioning? They laughed and said, “oh well.” Many prisoners became ill, complaining, of being dizzy with headaches related to the heat. A lot of inmates had to be carried to our infirmary, either on wheel chairs or gurney. A friend of mine started experiencing chest pains, he was taken to the medical department and his blood pressure was through the roof. Eventually he had to be taken to the local hospital, in an ambulance. Even though people are getting sick every day, dropping like flies, and being carried to the infirmary, or taken to the hospital, the ranking officers and Warden Gonzales Kept us from respite. I’m not sure if Warden Furr had anything to do with it or not?

I sit here now and look back to this time last year when Warden Castro and Garza were here. It is absolutely amazing to see the complete difference in how the prison is being run. How can there be so much difference in these four people? And it’s also easy to see how much the guards and ranking officers hate respite. Not all of them hate it, some guards understand the importance of respite, because they have seen prisoners sick or collapse from the heat. Or even worse, they’ve worked at other prisons and they saw men die from the heat. To my surprise, all of our Sgt.’s and Lt.’s, seem to hate respite and try every day to find a reason to close it. Even though they are well aware that respite, is not only policy in TDCJ, but a Federal Law. The ranking officers are the first ones to say, you all know the rules, when an inmate breaks a rule. Every single day since the beginning of respite, they have violated TDCJ policy and have violated Federal Law. The only difference between the inmates in prison and our Sgt.’s and Lt.’s is we got caught, and they are protected by dirty ass wardens, like Beard and Gonzales, and of course the Puppetmasters. The sad thing is, people have become sick, sick enough to need medical attention and to be taken to the hospital. The Texas prison system is so set in the past, it cannot let go of their old way of thinking and realize that it’s time to move into modern times. This Respite Program is a lifesaving tool that was put together to save the men and women from being cooked to death in our cells or dorms. And, I ask myself all of the time, why they hate it so much? Why would you not use this and encourage all of the prisoners to go every day? Doesn’t it make sense to save lives, since they can? Our last two wardens seem to have understood this and they did everything possible to make sure no one else died from the heat. And I applaud them, for their efforts, and for making the guards and the ranking officers, do their jobs.

As I have said before, in other chapters, from 1998 until 2014, when the Heat Lawsuit was filed, 23 people have been cooked to death inside different prisons around Texas. That’s 23 deaths in 16 years, not one of these prisoners was a serial killer. None of these men were sent to prison to be cooked to death. One man was a cab driver who was sent to prison for four years for writing bad checks; he was dead in less than four days. His body core temperature was one hundred and ten degrees. Does that make sense to anyone reading this, to allow people to die when you have the power to stop it? If a person knowingly and willfully does something that causes another person to die, that person will be charged with first-degree murder. And I understand this law, it makes perfect sense, because if I do something that I fully understand could kill another human being, I am a murderer. Well, the state of Texas has known for decades people were being killed in our 130-degree cells and did nothing to stop it. And now, that they have respite and close it down, knowing full and well the dangers of it, that makes all of these people guilty of, Capital Murder.

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