The Blue Bandana Gang - prison guards

(please note that the TERRELL Unit is now the POLUNSKY Unit)

VOICES FROM PRISON: Worse Criminals Run Amok The Texas prison system is reverting to the bad old days when guards brutalized and murdered prisoners with impunity. This story is just breaking and facts are hard to come by. What I report here has been gleaned from two stories from the Houston Chronicle by Kathy Walt; an internal memo by John F. McAuliffe, director of the prison cyst'ms Internal Affairs Division; and personal interviews with people who were there. McAuliffe's memo is dated December 1, 1994.

Four Texas prisons are involved in the Internal Affairs probe in which thirty guards are being investigated for organized criminal conduct. At McConnell Prison in Beeville, Texas, a group of guards known as the "Blue Bandanas" severely beat 25-year-old Willie Jones on November 24, for "mouthing off" to a guard. Two of the guards involved in the Jones beating (Rodolfo Rodriguez and Damian Contreras) were indicted a few days ago (early December '94) by a Bee County Grand Jury on charges of aggravated assault, retaliation, and tampering with a witness. The charge of "tampering" stems from the guards' efforts to threaten two other guards into giving false statements about what happened. One guard was fired (Rodriguez), and the other resigned (Contreras). Both are free on $25,000 bond. Both were members of the "Blue Bandanas", a loosely organized group of guards who derive their name from the Color of the bandanas they carry "to let the inmates know they had unity". McAuliffe further said in his memo addressed to the Texas board of KKKriminal Justice and to top administrators in the department: "This latest case represents the fourth pending investigation involving allegations of organized criminal conduct on the part of the correctional officers using excessive force in attacks on targeted inmates." I don't know for sure what "targeted inmates" means to them, but I have been a targeted inmate and I can tell you it ain't no fun.

Meanwhile, at Robertson Prison near Abiline, Texas, four prisoners were beated so badly that the brutality could not be covered up. Internal Affairs is investigating these crimes which is akin to the fox investigating the chicken coop. Information on these cases is nearly impossible to come by because Texas prisoncrats have cloaked the entire investigation in a shroud of secrecy.

Perhaps the strangest case of all is at Michael Prison at Tennessee Colony, Texas, where at least six prisoners were beaten and brutalized. The Anderson County District Attorney Jeff Herrington refused to prosecute the cases in spite of the serious violations of state law which he is sworn to uphold. But why should we expect him to prosecute the good ol' boys that he drinks with and who vote him into office? It is probably the best thing that could have happened to us because now the federal authorities have taken over the prosecution of ten Michael Prison guards in six separate cases of prison brutality. I never thought I'd be glad to see the Feds ride in, but when you're a prisoner in a cyst'm as lawless as Texas you're glad to see an evil that you can hope is not quite as evil as the one you know.

But the real death KKKamp has been Terrell Prison just outside Livingston, Texas. We first heard on October 7, 1994, that prisoners were terrorized by guards who attacked them sporadically for seven hours. When the guard riot ended, 30-year-old Michael McCoy lay dead and prisoner Eric Robinson was suffering from a severe beating. Guards Alex L. Torres and Joel Lambright have been charged with murder. Both are free on $50,000 bond. Variuos charges have been filed against four other guards who went on the rampaging riot with Torres and Lambright, and a total of nine guards have been suspended.

Only three days later on October 10.1994, Anthony Thibodeaux was murdered in Terrell Prison. The guards first reported the 24-year-old black man died when he had a seizure and hit his head on the floor. The autopsy determined that Thibodeaux had been murdered and the guards changed their story saying that he was kicked to death by a gang of prisoners in the Day Room. The official cause of death was a brain hemorrhage due to a ruptured esophagus. The guards now say that he was struck across the esophagus by one convict and fell to the floor. Then six inmates pounced on him beating him unconscious. Whatever happened, no charges have been filed in Thibodeaux's murder.

The first of the four recent murders at Terrell Prison was the July 14, 1994, slaying of 22-year-old Paul Hernandez. Guards reported that Hernandez was being shaken down by a gang of prisoners who wanted him to join the gang. He died of massive head injuries. No charges have been filed. On August 5, '94, 23-year-old Randy Payne had his head split open by a steel toed boot and died at Hermann Hospital in Houston on August 12, never regaining consciousness, his mother at his bedside. It took prison keepers seven hours to get Payne to the hospital after his body was found. Prison officials have told Mrs. Payne that her son fought off two gangs of prisoners for nearly two hours because he refused to pay protection or become their punk. No charges filed.

These four murders happened at Terrell Prison, a prison that opened in December of 1993 and was bally-hooed by prisoncrats to be the dream prison -- a state of the art Gulag costing $57 million and holding 2,250 poor people. Warden Keith Price boasts of its design and electronic eavesdropping capabilities -- features that are supposed to allow guards to see into virtually every nook and cranny, and even listen in on convict conversation.

So how could these four murders have happened without the guards' complicity? We have learned that all four murders happened in the same maximum security section known as Seven Building. And now we know why convicts call it "go to heaven building". At least three, and possibly all four murders occurred on the same duty shift. The "investigation" continues.

Can you imagine what Texas prison will be like when they hire another 9,500 guards next year? They hired 8,000 new ones this year. They now have 62 prisons housing nearly 100,000 poor people, and they plan to open a new facility a week for the next 18 months. That means in mid-1996 Texas will have 134 prison facilities with 28,000 guards running out of control. "It is much easier to imprison surplus labor than to create jobs."

George Bush Jr., the new governor, has already promised to make the prisons miserable. I wonder what he thought they were already? The legislature has cut our gate money down from $200 to $50. That means if you sleep on the streets you can feed yourself for about five days if you eat at McDonalds. Who can look for a job while living in a cardboard box? They have also passed legislation that says that once you lose your good time you never get it back.

This bit of genius will help fill those 134 prisons. The more macho among us are grumbling because they are making us wear girl pants, i.e., trousers with no pockets and no fly. But the real corker is that on March 1, 1995, all tobacco products will become contraband for prisoners and guards alike. Your prison. Love it or leave it. Auden said, "Those to whom evil is done do evil in return." A simple truth, but Texans don't seem to realize what they're doing. Do they really want to meet the products of their outrageous prisons on some dark and gloomy night?

When I was thinking about a title for this report, a story I read somewhere a long time ago came to mind. One of Napoleon's ministers advised him to make Devil's Island into a prison where they could cast the most terrible murderers of the day. "But who will guard such criminals?" he asked. "Worse criminals!" the minister replied.

I go now. In the Spirit of Crazy Horse. -- STANDING DEER