March 18, 2008
I know that many of you have been waiting for some official words from me since I’ve been at my new Unit. And I apologize for the delay. I had hoped, when I made my first journal, that I could bring some good news. Of course the good news remains that I’m here and have the chance to keep this fight going. And that will forever be. But, life goes on and so does the struggle. We look back and have inspiration, we look forward with aspirations.
Well, as many of you know I was waiting to see if I would be placed in a higher level as the current level I’m on is not that much different from the way I was housed on death row. The main difference is that I recreate with a group of men and we sometimes eat together in our day room. Other than that it remains the same that I’m confined to a cell 22 hours a day, but this time with somebody.
When I got here in September and was reviewed I was told that if I did 3 months with no disciplinary cases that I would be reviewed for the next level. Unfortunately we went on a lock down from November 13th – December 31st. So, that review did no happen, but I was told that it wouldn’t happen, because the “higher ups” wanted the mandatory 6 months. It was already January when I was told that, so 2 more months was no big deal. However, when you deal with this system for long enough you learn to catch vibes from those that smile in your face. You learn to read their language and delays turn into denials. I know that program well.
My 6 months rolled up on this day (March 18th) and I went for that review. You guessed it- DENIED! I had pretty much felt that was going to happen. One thing that you will learn about TDC (and this system, period) is that there is no TRUE protocol. As we say- “They make it up as they go.” As with the entire System it’s with TDC- every year there’s new rules and the powers that be are always above them, manipulate them and utilize them how they want.
I was told that they want me to do a full year on this level. Is that written in protocol? Yes! Do they bend it when they want to? Yes! Since I’ve been here I’ve seen them bring men up for their next level in 6 months. I’ve astoundingly seen them raise men up even when they had disciplinary cases. I’ve seen that happen with 3 people thus far. So, I basically see them do what they want for whatever reasons they choose.
I’m not going to get on my political conspiracy/political retaliation theories. I’m also not going to walk with my head down about it. Dealing with snakes in the grass is nothing new to me and fighting is nothing new to me. The only thing this Administration did was put themselves further into my scopes. I’ve already began to take action against them for what’s going on with our recreation. Those problems continue (in fact, at the time of this writing I have not had recreation for the last 4 days straight. We did another lock down from February 27th-March 13th and during the month of February we only got a total of 4 days of recreation). The only thing they are doing is engaging me in battle with them. And I don’t mind. I was bred for that. I had hoped to be able to move forward with my life, but they’re not going to make that simple for me. It’s nothing new about knowing these people are provokers. They create problems and punish people when they stand up for themselves.
As of now I have dedicated my protest to the pen. IF we were getting the recreation we were due it wouldn’t be so bad. Thus far I have begun to have letters sent to politicians. I had some drawn up and I had copies made and I passed them out to the inmates in my living area. You will find a copy of that attached below. It’s only a draft. I would ask ALL OF YOU to put something together and send to Senator John Whitmire. By making TDC do the right thing this is the best way we can get back. For all those in Texas and with Texas connections I’d ask you to pass this on. People here must press this issue. If the issue doesn’t get pressed politically we, the prisoners, will be forced to press it physically. That has already happened to one young man here and he was slammed on his head while in handcuffs causing his head to bust open. I am helping him contact politicians and Civil Rights groups and he plans to file a law suit. I’ll help whoever I can.
I deal with these situations by staying busy. When I left death row I said that I wouldn’t stop and I meant that. I don’t want people to worry. If we can beat death row there’s nothing we can’t do. We can do a lot.
What my future holds I cannot say, so I seek to make each day worth living. Because of all my family went through over the past years I will stay focused and will do my best to not fall into any traps. I just ask that those of you that can….stay moving, because you are the wind in my back.
I close this for now, but I close with strength in my heart and vision in my eyes. We’ll talk soon.
From the Struggle,
Senator John Whitmire
803 Yale Street
Houston, TX 77007
We come to you today hoping to get your assistance in correcting some injustices going on within some TDCJ institutions. We are aware that you are the Chairman of the Criminal Justice Jurisprudence Committee, thus have jurisdiction over these affairs.
We are very aware of the staff shortage TDC is facing, but we believe that this reason is being used to carry out some abuses at one Unit specifically and that is the McConnell Unit in Beeville.
I am the______________(insert here your relation to the person you are petitioning for)
To__________________ (insert name of that inmate here).
It’s been brought to our attention that the inmates on close custody are being thoroughly neglected. By the TDC Handbook it states that these men are to recreate for 2 hours a day outside and if weather is bad- in the gym. Due to the staff shortage these men have not been getting any recreation at all. Inmates on other levels are being allowed dayroom time. It is true that inmates on other levels are allotted 2 hours outside and several hours in the dayroom. However, the McConnell Administration is using this as an excuse to not recreate Close Custody at all, because they are only allotted outside time and since there is a staff shortage they are being denied recreation completely. We believe this is becoming inhumane treatment. Please keep in mind that these men are housed with someone, thus they are being forced to be in a cell with another person for 24 hours day after day.
Also, on days when they say staff is extremely short these men sometimes don’t get showers and are not fed hot meals- they get a sacked meal. As citizens that pay taxes to the Criminal Justice branch we are very disturbed that our funds are not covering the above issues. We are also concerned with how our family members are being treated. How can they come out better people if they are being treated as less than human?
Grievances have been filed by the inmates on these matters. In the grievances they suggest to the McConnell staff to rotate staff so that at least they could come out of their cells sometimes. This very simple suggestion has not been followed. From February 2nd – February 24th these men came out of their cells only 3 times. And we believe it will only get worse. These men need to come out of there cells for exercise, fresh air, and to get relief from their cell mates. These are not just things which the rule book states they should have, but are basic human decencies.
We come to you and ask you to look into what is going on at McConnell Unit. We understand that McConnell Unit is not the only unit with problems, but the situation there is only worsening. As
politicians we would hope that you would want to deter any possible problems, or stresses that could occur from such treatments. We ask you to do what you can so that fair treatment- even if only little due to the circumstances- are carried out.
We look forward to hearing from you regarding progress in this matter. Thank you.