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Texas Death Row prisoners say "¡Ya Basta!" to Inhuman Prison Conditions by Texas Death Row Prisoners Wednesday, Jun. 08, 2011 at 4:07 PM firstname.lastname@example.org
Texas Death Row inmates are banning together and protesting in various ways as never before. This is because of new pseudo policies, which, as should be noted, the vast majority of staff members disagrees with and see as pointless and counterproductive.
ISSUES TO BE ADDRESSED
To: Ranking officers over the Death Row Inmate Population
From: The Death Row Inmate Population
Date: May 1, 2011
Texas Death Row inmates are banning together and protesting in various ways as never before. This is because of new pseudo policies, which, as should be noted, the vast majority of staff members disagrees with and see as pointless and counterproductive. In fact, it seems that the only two people pushing this heightened level of oppression are major Smith and Assistant Warden Lester. In the history of Texas Death Row there has never been so very many Use of Force and staff assaults, in such a very short period of time. This is the result of one thing and one thing only: the sudden dramatic rise in extreme psychological and physical violence that is being forced upon us. We just wished to be left alone and allowed to peacefully exist without beings viciously attacked as the TX Death Row inmate population has been lately.
Every ranking officer involved with the D.R building operations will be given a written copy of this May 1, 2011 list of “Issues To Be Addressed“ and all issues will be discussed with them extensively. This has been done repeatedly unofficially but as of 5-1-11 all ranking officers will be officially notified. If they so choose to violate TDCJ-CID policy, ACA standards, state & federal law they will do so of their own free will, knowingly, willingly and with intent. The issues to be addressed are as follows:
*Polunsky Death Row Ranking Staff: Warden Simmons, Asst. Warden Butcher, Asst. Warden Lester, Major Smith, Captain Dickens, Captain Bolton, Captain Miller, Lt. Newberry, Lt. Tully, Lt. McGee, Lt. Worthy, Lt. Duff, Lt. Cabiness, Sgt. Belknap, Sgt. Timmons, Sgt. Valentine, Sgt. Ferris, Sgt. Andrews, Sgt. Macias, Sgt. Beverly, Sgt. Williams, Sgt. McDaniel, Sgt. Helms, Sgt. Ancina, Sgt. Griggsby, (All C.Os will be made aware of the issues as well).
*References: Board Policy (B.P.) 3.9I, Administrative Directive (AD) 3.72, Use of Force Plan, PD-22, Death Row Plan and many other TDCJ policies-extensively, state laws (TX – Government Codex, etc.), extensive federal law (Hudson vs. McMillan, 503 U.S. I [I992]). An extremely detailed and exhaustive list of TDCJ-CID policies, ACA Standards, state and federal laws is available upon request.
NOTE: TDCJ-CID employees are subject to being charged criminally and/or held civilly liable in state and/or Federal Court for violations of state and/or Federal law. (TDCJ-CID policies and ACA standards are based on state and federal law). Polunsky unit staff members have been committing these violations daily.
ISSUSES TO BE ADDRESSED
To: Ranking officers over the Death Row Inmate Population From: The Death Row Inmate Population Date: May 1, 2011
In accordance with TDCJ-CID policy, ACA standards, state & federal law the Texas Death Row inmate population would like to bring the following issues to the attention of the ranking staff members in change of the security operations of Death Row. The following list of problems can easily be resolved by on-site ranking staff members and we respectfully request that they do indeed be resolved in an expedient manner. The issues of relevance are as follows:
*Unsanitary conditions on the pods: Staff members have not been following policy concerning the cleaning of the pods. We request that adequate cleaning supplies be provided an appropriate number of S-S-I’s be assigned to cleaning duty and the pods be properly cleaned and sanitized per policy, there should be no mold in the showers, backed up drains, caked on dirt and dust on the dayroom bars and filth on the floors furthermore, there should never be a single day where an officer comes up with some unjustified excuse for not having the pods cleaned properly. (This has been happening more and more lately).
*Necessity Items I: Soap and Bippy (scouring powder) used to be passed out weekly without exception and extra soap and Bippy would be kept in the picket and passed out if needed. For example, if an officer in rushing to feed chow and accidentally spills the thick greasy liquid that accompanies many tray items – which happens quite often – the C.O. would give the inmate extra soap and Bippy to clean his food slot and door recently, soap and Bippy hasn’t been passed out. For a decade since D.R. has been on this unit this has never been a problem until recently.
*Necessity Items (Clothing) II: Recently, the necessity items that have been passed out have been exceedingly dirty and dingy. Also, previously we were allowed to keep our jackets and blankets year round and they would be washed about every 3 months. Because of the way the AC/Heating systems functions it is sometimes extremely cold in our cells during the summer, therefore we request to have our blankets year round. Furthermore, our jackets are our only protection from rain when on the outside recreation yard (regardless of the season). Therefore, we respectfully request that we be allowed our jackets year round.
*Shower Slots: For 10 years never once were the handcuff removal slots closed when inmates are showering, until recently. The exhaust vents in the showers do not work correctly when the slots are closed and this creates a terribly oppressive situation where the showering inmate cannot breathe correctly. Several inmates have passed out in the shower and many have vomited or become nauseous. There is absolutely no valid reason to close the slots on the showers. Furthermore the open slot is where people place their clothes. Now, the only options are to either place ones clothes on the filthy shower floor where they will get soaking wet or have the COs violate policy and place the items on the dayroom bars or hang them out on a door fixture. (Note: Many ranking officers have stated that holes are supposed to be drilled into the piece of plexi-glass on the shower doors in order to provide proper ventilation and either hooks or a tray are supposed to be secured inside the doors so we can hang up our clothes but this has not happened yet. The whole point of having a plexi-glass window on the shower door is for security purposes so staff can see inside especially during shakedowns, but because of the lack of ventilation the windows fog up and staff is unable to see inside. This is an obvious security risk as many staff members have noted.
*Mail Issues: Problems with ingoing and outgoing mail have dramatically increased recently. Mail has been coming up missing and as has been well documented mail is being held in the mailroom for outrageously excessive amounts of time. TDCJ-CID policy – specifically the Correspondence Rules, B.P. 3.9I – states that ingoing and outgoing mail is to be processed within 24 hours. (48 hours for inmates under specific official security threat watch). We respectfully request that the mail problems be immediately resolved.
*Property officer Martinez: The problems with C. O. Martinez are so very extreme that she is a major problem in and of herself and thus deserves to be counted as a major issue. Ms. Martinez is just absolutely incapable of engaging in her job in a professional manner. She routinely violates TDCJ policy as a matter of what seems to be a natural course for her. She is responsible for unjust confiscation of property as well as unjust denial of release of property (during visitation and otherwise). Ms. Martinez routinely holds property released and sent via mail for outrageously long periods of time. We respectfully request that an officer who can carry out property duties with an appropriate degree of professionalism immediately replace her.
• It should be noted that the mass amount of problems concerning property did not occur until Major Joe Smith became the highest-ranking officer over Texas Death Row. He is the one who allowed these problems to occur, he is the one who assigned C. O. Martinez –and before her, her ranking officer Ms. Smith– to property room duty. A striking example of what Major Smith has caused: The number of staff assaults and Use of Force (UOF) prior—in the many years prior – to Major Smith due the property? Zero. The number of staff assaults since Major Smith has become Major of Death Row and implemented extreme pseudo-policies (which are actually against real written TDCJ policy) concerning property? There have been many, many UOF and staff assaults because of Major Smith’s unjust actions concerning property the number is in the double digits if not the triple digits. From Zero in many years (Approximately 30 years) to at least a double digit number is absolutely shocking (a double digit number in a few years).
• Also, TDCJ-CID policy – specifically A.D. 3.72 – clearly states: “Access to each property room shall be limited to the assigned property officer and other limited personnel designated by the warden” (A.D 3.72 SEC. IV B.2). In the 30 years prison the Major Smith the other personnel was always the small number of other ranking officers on the D. R. building (Sgt.’s Lt.’s and the one captain assigned on the D. R.) Now, Major Smith has essentially given the property officer the rank of a Major or Warden! This is the root of the main problem concerning property issues. And this has been extremely demoralizing to ranking officers. We respectfully request that the policy that resulted in Zero staff assaults and Zero UOF be re-implemented and the limited number of D. R. supervising officers (Sgt., Lt., and Captain) be given 24 hour 7 day a week full property room access as had been the case for approximately 30 years prior to Major Smith. It might seem strange to some that we are requesting something that all of the ranking officers (and C.O. s) have been very vocally in favor of but we are simply thinking rationally and trying to resolve problems and prevent future problems from occurring.
• Level II and Level III Property: A dramatic rise in destruction unjust holding, arbitrary confiscation and disappearance of property recently and previously, when a person was dropped to L- II or III he was given all of his hygiene items in his possession at the time of leveling. Now, it seems staff is trying as hard as possible to extremely limit hygiene items, many times only giving leveled inmates, for example, two bars of soap and placing the other 20 in their property roam box. There are only two options: 1) When inmates are leveled give them all of their hygiene items or 2) Assign several new staff members to the job of daily bringing inmates replacement items from their property room held property when they run out (which is a daily occurrence because different inmates run out of different items and different times). We respectfully request that these property issues be immediately resolved.
• There is no written policy that prevents inmates from possessing hardback books on Level II or Level III, in fact, policy clearly states that we are allowed to possess all publications and literature including hardback books on L-II or L-III. For some unknown reason certain officers at certain times have prevented certain inmates from having hardback books in L-III. Now, in clear violation of policy, staff are attempting to prevent most inmates from having hardback books on L-III and now apparently, L-II also. We request that this “policy“ be immediately reversed. Note: if inmates are reading, then they aren’t causing problems. Furthermore, many of the larger books are religious and/or education and per policy religious and/or educational endeavors cannot be restricted due to disciplinary status.
• TDCJ-CID policy clearly states: “piddling (craft) privileges will not be considered a leisure activity that may be suspended as a (disciplinary) penalty” (GR–106, pg. 17). Policy states that we are not allowed to purchase arts and crafts items—in accordance with our In–cell Arts and Crafts program—on L-II and L-III but previously we were allowed to keep the those items which we possessed when leveled. We request that this be the case again. Note: If inmates are doing arts and crafts, then they are not causing problems.
*Leaking Cells: This has been a problem for years. This is really part of larger problem that can only be described as a sort of antagonistic battle between the maintenance department –which is out in general population far from the D. R. building– and Death Row inmates and D. R. staff. Quite a number of times D. R. Staff has presented maintenance with a list of all the cells that leak. They will come eventually, perhaps fix a few and outright lie and say they are fixed more or all. Then D. R. Staff will “blow it off” and say, “Well, we told maintenance”. F-Pod 63 cell is a perfect example of how quick and easy it is to fix a cell that leaks. F-63 leaked horrendously maintenance came scrapped of the old paint and soap and toilet paper people have stuck on the problematic area on the ceiling/back wall, quickly washed it and applied a beige sealer to the crack. This only took about 20 minutes and completely fixed the problem. We respectfully request that this be done to all leaking D. R. building cells immediately.
*Shower Procedure: Since the new “shower slot closing” policy was implemented another shower procedure policy has been implemented. For the decade that D. R. has been on this building C.O.’s have conducted inmate showering by going all the way around one row A, B, C, D, E and F section and then coming back around two row F, E, D, C, B and A section, or vice versa. Now, officers have only been showering people on one half of the pod at a time (usually A, B, C side first). The reason for implementing this new policy is said to be so we are not in the showers for a longer period of time, therefore, the showering process -with the slots closed– would not be so oppressive. This is illogical for several reasons. One, we were already given a short period of time to shower barely enough time to do so and we have still been showering properly so this has only resulted in officers just standing around waiting for people to finish showering and has not cut down on the time we spend in the shower. What it has resulted in is officers using this new shower procedure to dramatically and unjustly slows down showers and/or not do them at all in clear violation of TDCJ-CID policy. We respectfully request that we be showered as we have been for the last decade than D. R. has been on the Polunsky unit.
*Leveling Prior to a Disciplinary Hearing: Until recently D.R. Inmates were never dropped from Level I to Level II before a disciplinary hearing. This new pseudo- policy is in direct violation of TDCJ-CID policy, ACA standards, states & federal law. The only way a person can justifiably be immediately moved to L-II or L-III status is it they fall into one of the following categories: 1) He/she is a current escape risk. 2) His/ her presence would create a threat to the physical safety of other offenders or staff, or 3) It is necessary to maintain the integrity of an investigation, i.e. to preserve the integrity of information either in the offenders possession or another offenders possession. Now, against policy, people are being leveled for the most insignificant cases imaginable such as passing a newspaper (which is not even a real justifiable case). Being leveled is an extreme form of punishment which entails an offender having his recreation time immediately cut in half, his visits immediately cut in half, all of his commissary items taken (except hygiene and writing supplies) including his radio and hot-pot and losing his special visits if they were already scheduled (which can mean friends and family members losing hundreds or thousands of dollars on pre-bought plan tickets). Unjust leveling is not only an assault on an inmate it is also an assault on the inmates friends and family members.
*Passing between inmates: For the entire approximately 35 year history of modern Texas Death Row inmates have been allowed to pass items such as books, food, magazines and newspapers amongst each other. This has always been the case and in the 10 years D.R. has been on this unit it has never been a problem before (none of this is against policy). Now, suddenly certain ranking staff members have initiated a new pseudo-policy, really a manipulation of policy, attempting to ban us from passing anything amongst each other. This is an absolutely vicious and violent attack, an extreme form of assault and as many academics have noted, psychological violence is many times worse than physical violence. This is not done with others even inmates on 8 building in “closed custody” status for offenses such as assault and major contraband (drugs, cell phones, etc.) possession. Attempting to prevent us from sharing books, art and food with each other is oppressive in the extreme and we ask that this new pseudo- policy be immediately stopped.
*Officers passing between inmates: Death Row officers have always been allowed to pass items between inmates (once again, for the entire 35 year history of modern Texas Death Row). For example, if one inmate has a large GEO study book and is helping another with GEO studies he will ask an officer if he or she can please give the book to another inmate if the officer does not mind. The officer will inspect the book and pass it along if he or she chooses to do so. Policy states it is at the individual officer’s discretion to do so or not. Now, suddenly this has changed. We ask that this extremely oppressive change be stopped immediately.
*Food Service: Violations of food service policy have increased lately. The trays we are fed differ from those served to general population inmates and many of the serving carts are broken and do not heat up the food properly. Preliminary investigation has shown that all of the food carts are broken and several staff members have said they are broken beyond repair. It should be noted that the same food carts are in use that were in use when D. R. arrived here over 10 years ago. TDCJ policy states that we are supposed to be served the exact same thing that is served in the Officer’s Dining Room but this is not the case at all. Furthermore, we never receive the condiments that general population and staff receive and the portions we are served are smaller. We respectfully request that kitchen staff follow the meal plan menu and food service policy as soon as possible and continue to do so.
*Telephone Calls: All other inmates in the Texas Prison System are allowed telephone service except those on Death Row and inmates who are in Administrative Segregation for extreme rule violations. We are theoretically allowed only 5 minutes call every 90 days but even this is a hard thing to achieve. We respectfully request to be allowed the same telephone access as the general population. Note: it is against state and federal law to discriminate against one section of the prison population for no warranted reason.
*Death Watch Leveling: Previously, if an inmate who was on disciplinary status received an execution date the ranking staff members would give him the option of immediately being moved back up to Level I status and, of course, if the inmate committed any rule violations that warranted him being dropped to L-II or L-III when on Death Watch this would occur. We respectfully ask that this be the case again.
*Visitation List Changes: Previously, when D.R. was on the Ellis unit, D.R. inmates could change their visitation lists weekly if necessary. In the 10 years D. R. has been on the Polunsky Unit if an inmate needed to change his visitation list and he requested to do so and gave a reason, then the change was usually allowed. Now, changes to visitation lists are only allowed once every 6 months and this is an extremely oppressive policy. We respectfully ask that it be changed to allow visitation list changes once a week if necessary.
*Shaving Razors: For the entire 35-year modern history of Texas Death Row, D. R. inmates were allowed to purchase disposable shaving razor from commissary and were also given a state-issued razor once a week. D. R. inmates could possess however many shaving razors. Now, suddenly, this has changed and now we are only given a razor when we shower three times a week, although, many times not even that often. It should be mentioned that the “reason” for this is that an inmate was found with a shirt laced with razor blades. This same inmate has previously made a lasso and a knife and given it to officers and basically said: “Look what I can do! Look what I can do!” Furthermore, when this inmate was found with the “razor- shirt” he was on a section by himself for security purpose and on razor restriction and only had contact with officers. This new razor policy has done nothing but create a contraband market in razors. We ask that it be reserved.
• The Disciplinary Rules and Procedures are very clear, when an inmate is given commissary restriction as a result of a disciplinary hearing this does not include “legal correspondence materials and hygiene items” (GR-106 VII. A 1. C.2) or by policy it is not supposed to include these items but these items are routinely restricted under a given period of commissary restriction. We request this practice end.
• D.R. inmates are currently only allowed to when on Level I, spend $85 a month, yet the commissary prices have continuously increased and many items such as correspondence supplies and hygiene items are an absolute necessity. We respectfully request that the spend limit be increased to $150, and furthermore we request that we be allowed to purchase 60 stamps per spend period instead of 30.
* Inmate Legal Visits: For the decade that D. R. has been on this unit – in accordance with TDCJ-CID policy– we have been allowed inmate legal visits. Suddenly this has stopped and we respectfully request to be allowed inmate legal visits again.
*Excessive Use of Force: Recently, there has been a dramatic increase in excessive Use of Force (UOF). For example, for the first time in the approximately 35 year history of Texas D. R., an inmate was assaulted with a “beam bag“ concussion weapon and knocked unconscious and another was beaten with a metal riot baton. There have been many violations of the TDCJ “Use of Force Plan” as well as the “management and Utilization of state—Issued Chemical Agents” policy SM – 05.03. Furthermore, after a UOF – and indeed at other times–there have been many violations of the “offender management Restrictions” policy SM–01.29. We request that these violations stop.
* Televisions: Texas is the only state that does not allow its Death Row inmates to have televisions. We respectfully request to be allowed to purchase televisions. (Note: General population inmates have T.V.’s).
* Top-Down Staff Harassment: Recently there has been a dramatic rise in the harassment of lower ranking staff members by higher-ranking staff members. This has created a volatile environment for all and we respectfully request that this practice stop immediately.
*Pay Raise For Staff: Administrative officials have consistently spent literally millions of dollars on pointless so-called “security upgrades” to the Death Row building, for example, replacing the outside large security lights with longer extremely expensive gigantic stadium-style lights and repairing the already secure metal barriers/angle-iron between our walls with more metal, all pointless. Yet, the COs have not received the pay raises they have been requesting. We ask that all D. R. C. O.’s Sgt.’s and Lt.’s be given an immediate 15% pay raise. If millions can be spent on nonsense, then the Administration can spend a small amount on a pay raise for those who work at what has been called “one of the most secure prisons in the U.S.” This would help alleviate some of the oppression that the D. R. staff are suffering from and make this environment better for. Let us reiterate that we do not hate or even dislike most staff members here, we want this environment to be better for all.
*Grievance Procedure: There has been an increase lately of problems with the grievance procedure, including non–valid responses to meritorious issues and disappearances of grievances. We request this stop immediately and Polunsky Unit grievance staff follows proper TDCJ-CID policy, including the Grievance Operations Manual. Furthermore, it should be noted that many inmates feel that because the grievance procedure is a ‘joke’ their only option is to engage in acts of protest such as Uses of Force and some have been pushed to violence.
*I-60 Requests: I-60 Request Forms are not responded to now about 90% of the time. Once again, the “formal” avenues that are in place are no longer valid at all. We do not want to be engaged in protest actions, but we have been forced to because certain staff members have made the formal channels of resolving complaints completely invalid.
*Shakedown Team: Two special shakedown Teams have been created which consist of approximately 7 officers on two separate cards. These teams were created in order to search for weapons, cell phones and drugs, yet their main mission has become to oppress and viciously harass us. The shakedown teams routinely assault our property and this is one at the main issues that has forced people to engage in protest. The shakedown teams operate in an absolutely rogue and out-of-control manner and we request that this cease immediately.
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