Sunday, April 26, 2015

First TDCJ prisoners pass 30-year mark in solitary confinement

TDCJ ad-seg cell interior. Statesman/TDCJ.
Ugh. Eric Dexheimer at the Austin Statesman reports (April 25) that, on April 10, Texas witnessed the first of a wave of prisoners in solitary confinement who have passed the thirty-consecutive year mark.
A second Texas prisoner passed the 30-years-in-solitary mark last Monday. A third will reach it June 15, a fourth on Aug. 3. By the end of November, there will be 10 inmates with the distinction of having spent one score and 10 years in one room, with others not far behind; the state has more than 100 prisoners with at least 20 years in solitary confinement under their belts. ...

State records show Texas’ first 30-year solitary prisoner was 58 years old as of March 1. That means he has spent more than half his middle-aged life in one 60-square-foot room.

And while it would be correct to assume that many of those who have served the longest in the system’s most restrictive setting are also some of the state’s worst criminals, that’s not always the case. Two of the inmates who will reach the 30-year solitary mark this year are serving time for burglary.
Since 2006, the number of Texas prisoners kept in solitary (known within the bureaucracy as "ad seg" or "administrative segregation") declined 37 percent, from nearly 10,000 to around 6,000, or from 6 percent to 4 percent of the inmate population. By contrast, in Mississippi 1.4 percent of inmates are kept in solitary, Dexheimer reported.

There's not much moving legislatively on solitary issues during Texas' 84th session. Rep. Marisa Marquez, who's been a quiet, consistent champion on this topic, passed a bill out of committee which would require mental health assessments before TDCJ commits an inmate to ad seg, but it has yet to be scheduled for a floor vote. And the inestimable Sylvester Turner tacked on a rider to the House budget providing funds for mental health treatment for inmates leaving ad seg. Otherwise, most of what's been filed of significance hasn't left committee.

And so we wait, and they wait, and in the meantime the number of prisoners in ad seg more than 30 years and counting will continue to grow, with hundreds more released directly to the streets each year. If change occurs in the next biennium, it'll have to come from the agency or possibly litigation.

BTW, for those interested in the issue, the blog Solitary Watch should be required reading. See also prior, related Grits posts:

28 comments:

Ray Collins said...

Your picture is of the modern version of an administrative segregation cell. I haven't seen one. Anyone who has been in ad seg thirty years has seen the old version.

F. G. AuBuchon said...

I was working at the "Walls" Unit in September of 1985 when the system wide lockdown was implemented. There had been 7 homicides in one weekend, most at the Darrington Unit. We then started identifying gang members and placing them in Ad-Seg. The practice continues today. There is a mechanism for the gang members to renounce their affiliation and return to general population. Unfortunately, many of the old-timers do not want out of Seg for various reasons, mainly paranoia.

Ray Collins said...

I went into Ferguson monthly for a number of years in the late eighties and met some men who had purposefully "qualified" themselves for ad seg for their own protection. All the instances of which I knew were gang-related. Many years later they had chosen to come out of ad seg.

A note from Mary... said...

My husband will reach the 25 year mark this year in Seg. I would be careful in implying that Marquez has any effectiveness, although"quiet" of a good term. In essence, there is no one in Texas who is willing to take a stand against this barbarism.

Anonymous said...

We get our fair share of requests from inmates who want to be placed in Ad Seg. It is safer in there then in the Gen Pop.

Jordan said...

Thanks for sharing this issue. It is disturbing to imagine what 30 years of ad seg could do to someone's mental health. Definitely going to check out that Solitary Watch blog.

Anonymous said...

Only a group of bigoted, insensitive, medieval-minded, cruel, bastards would place a human being in a cage with sensory deprivation, lack of human contact, uselessly punitive, filthy, rusted, or inhumanely sterile cells where, in reality, one is buried alive. As to the picture: the cells are not that clean. The Skyview unit (which is supposed to be a hospital) in some areas and in ad seg is a cesspool, feces all over the place, from people gone mad over the years and from lack of sanitary standards; Ferguson in the 80's and now is a roach and rat infested dungeon. Michael's is cleaner, but still old and rusty with mildew. Allred is dirty and rusty.
As to "people want to be placed in adm. seg.": yes, when their lives areat stake,they may ask, having to choose between death or life, but they don't want to languish day after day in an hopeless and senseless gray cell deprived of human contact and anything that would remind them that they are human beings. Inmates sometimes resort to catching roaches and to try to keep them as pets - impossible to do. Those who "serve" in such an inhumane establishment and try to justify its existence, are insensitive, delusional, ignorant baboons, and, as far as I am concerned, I pray for them to someday rot in hell, in the hope that there is a hell in which they - as good "Christians" - believe.
Guards want to have respect as they are often not respected in their own community by anyone except their peers. You don't get respect when you participate in an inhumane, oppressive, unjustifiable, cruel system such as solitary confinement and super-max prisons.
While we are engaging in probably a useless discussions, those kept in these hellish places are suffering needlessly. They are, in effect, being subject to a form of slow torture that it is worse than death itself. Guards and wardens: be proud participants! And if you can look yourself in the mirror, I hope you don't see what I see when I think of your faces: a spiritually bankrupt, lost bunch of souls who don't have enough sense to just say "no" and move where they can find more humane jobs.
Thanks GFB for letting me rant.

Anonymous said...

Please, watch this brief video:
https://www.facebook.com/KTRKHouston/videos/10153023441684342/?fref=nf

Anonymous said...

Yet another reminder to thank God for all my blessings. I pray for humanity. There has to be a better way.

sunray's wench said...

Anon @7.39 ~ I doubt any of those requesting to be in Seg imagin they will still be there 30 years later.

If Seg is supposed to be punishment, then don't use it as protective custody. Don't allow people to request it, and then conveniently forget they requested and refuse to allow them to leave.

Anonymous said...

Through nobody's fault, I think there is some confusion here in terms. Happily I don't work at a unit that has very much Ad Seg--I'm curious as to how much of this is punishment, how much is sought by the offender, how much is protective custody. It's hard to get a comprehensive picture from this post.

Prison Doc

Anonymous said...

TDCJ refuses to properly train officers on how to manage offenders with mental health issues like many other states have done. The agency over relies on using ad seg for offenders with mental illness who do not conform to the system. Professionalizing the officers and their training need to be the first step to reducing the overuse of ad seg. Many offenders who are in ad seg are mental health cases who become staff assaultive due to staff not knowing how to manage this challenging population. TDCJ needs to stop living in the Shawshank Redemption days and modernize their training an recruiting of staff. TDCJ will end up back under Federal oversight once again due to their unwillingness to change.

Anonymous said...

"TDCJ refuses to properly train officers on how to manage offenders with mental health issues like many other states have done."

I think its worse than a lack of training. There seems to be a system-wide culture of ignoring mental health issues. I spent months trying to get someone to provide treatment for someone who was incarcerated at Lane Murray. My pleas went virtually ignored. Neither the Ombudsman nor the Medial Liaison's office were the least bit helpful. Letters to Mr. Livingston with copies to the governor and legislators were ignored. The medical liaison's office kept sending me letters with what was in the medical file. They thought simply because someone had seen the person that was adequate. The information they sent me proved that adequate treatment was not being provided. It appeared that they believed that because some notes had been documented, that was sufficient treatment. The person was told that only two medications were available for her condition - bipolar/depression with psychotic features. Both of these meds caused such severe side effects she was unable to take either. She asked for other meds which she had taken successfully before her incarceration but was told they could not be prescribed. I was told that other meds could be prescribed. Apparently, the official policy allows other meds but the unofficial policy does not. My pleas for help went ignored until this person became suicidal and she had to be moved o the Skyview unit. You would think some of the people running TDCJ would realize its better to treat people before the symptoms become so severe. But, talking to anyone there is like talking to a brick wall.

Anonymous said...


"I think its worse than a lack of training."
It's deliberate indifference from the top down.
"The information they sent me proved that adequate treatment was not being provided. It appeared that they believed that because some notes had been documented, that was sufficient treatment." And this is deliberate malpractice as so called licensed therapist are hired for the sole purpose of doing paperwork which saves UTMB managed care ass. NO TREATMENT, COUNSELING, GROUP THERAPY, OCCUPATIONAL REHAB or anything else, except for SOME drugs, takes place. The psychiatrist (WHO GETS PAID A 6-FIGURE SALARY) is absent and only the PA's (physician assistants) are really seeing patients they are not qualified to see. The meds given are often designed to overly sedate patients so they will not cause trouble. Side effects are not monitored. Patients are seen online through telehealth: not always effective with seriously ill patients.
ANYBODY LISTENING? HELL NO!
UTMB gets the money, taxpayers pay, therapists and doctors cover-up their unwillingness or inability to provide care... TO TOP IT ALL SOME UNITS ARE PROVIDING MEALS WHICH ARE SO SUBSTANDARD, inmates have become nutritionally deficient. THIS IS WORSE THAN THE VA where there has been cover-up after cover-up.These people are lower than scumbags. How do they sleep at night?


Anonymous said...

Don't blame the wardens, prison administration, or officers for mass incarceration of the mentally disabled. We the people are to blame. We the people elected the bosses in Austin that push to keep the prisons underfunded. We the people enjoy the fruits of greed while millions of Texans suffer. We the people elected hitmen like Dan Patrick and the Texas tea Baggers to keep our taxes low.

Don't hide from the facts TDCJ LPC have caseloads of 700/1 or that kids right out of high school are managing administrative segregation wards with hundreds of mental patients and no resources. We the people continue to allow this while enjoying the greed from our lower taxes.

Look in the mirror and take responsibility for our prisons becoming societies answer for social problems. We the people allowed the mass incarceration of people self medicating and allowed out prison system to become state's main mental health provider. Prisons are the easiest way to hide social problems. Enjoy your lower taxes that we the people demanded. We the people don't have to take personal responsibility do we? We the people just have to keep on enjoying our greed and blame others.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12:00 am - I can't disagree with your sentiments on the problems of mass incarceration, especially of the mentally ill. However, I personally appealed to the Warden and other staff at Lane Murray for assistance. I wrote multiple letters to Livingston with copies to the regional director and legislators. The warden's attitude was simply one of apathy. Some of the mental health staff refused to talk to me even though the inmate had signed a release. I did receive some assistance from one very concerned officer. One person out of all the ones I talked to showed concern. So, yes, I can blame the warden, mental health staff, the regional director, Brad LIvingston and others for their blatant lack of compassion and absolute refusal to do their jobs. They may not be respnosible for mass incarceration. But, when something is repeatedly brought to their attention and they willfully turn a blind eye, they are responsible and should be held accountable. Mr. Livingston, the regional director over Lane Murray, the warden at Lane Murray and the leaders of the UTMB healthcare program for TDCJ should all be fired. None of them have shown any interest in or ability to do their jobs in a competent manner

Anonymous said...

Grits, do you know the status of the bill establishing an independent ombudsman for TDCJ? This is something that is badly needed. The current ombudsman is nothing but a mouthpiece for TDCJ. According to that office, TDCJ can do no wrong. That office, as it currently operates, is a complete waste of taxpayer funds.

Anonymous said...

I agree with "Anonymous said...
Anonymous 12:00 am". The LPC's do NOT have a case-load of 700 inmates. The guards and the wardens are deliberately indifferent and prey on the weakest: the mentally ill - the more sick they are, the more they become brutalized by the guards who take some sadistic pleasure in name-calling, mind-games that set then up for getting cases, retaliation when an inmate/patient complains to a loved one --- SOME OF THESE THESE PEOPLE (THE GUARDS) ARE SICK BASTARDS and the wardens don't give a damn! FUNNY: these same pieces of shit are trained to ask visitors:
"did you have a good visit, sir/mam?" - "How was your visit? - "have a good day mam/sir"...... while deep inside they despise the families, the visitors, and their jobs. FAKE COURTESIES do not make-up up for inner-hate towards inmates, toward themselves, or toward the families. THIS GOES ON, please don't be in denial. THERE IS A MOVEMENT IN THIS COUNTRY AGAINST POLICE BRUTALITY, the guards are not police, but they have a similar code of silence when abuses take place. THUS THERE ARE NO "GOOD" guards as everybody is complicit.
Tho those in this forum, who keep on defending the indefensible
I have nothing else to say.

Anonymous said...

A prior poster said:"Look in the mirror and take responsibility for our prisons becoming societies answer for social problems..."
My looking in the mirror does not exonerate TDCJ and UTMB from conducting a humane business and obeying their own rules and guidelines which are broken every minute. Shifting responsibility from what these inept and callous bureaucrats are doing to the public, is another form of denial and manipulation, So, YOU look your own mirror! What do you see?

Anonymous said...

So adept is the prison at its task that it can transform the noblest person into a belligerent hooligan with startling efficiency. "When you have robbed a man of everything, he is no longer in your power. He is free again." (Aleksandr Solzenhitsin, 1997) In order to understand the criminal, we have to understand the complex dynamics of the prison environs. It is the uncontrollable Frankenstein that society has inadvertently created in the prison that supplies us with our perpetual woes. It is said that a nation that does not understand the nature and consequences of imprisonment is deluded and will be more punished than it can ever punish a convicted prisoner.

Prison is the birthplace of hopelessness and the graveyard of self-esteem, where the premature infant of deviance is incubated and nourished into a robust criminal delinquent. Every structure and every routine in the prison mockingly reminds inmates of their powerlessness and disfigures their self-image. This demeaning sense of worthlessness and inferiority, woven in the psyche of the prisoners, is an indispensable instrument for the prison regime, as it executes its role of control and security in an environment where inmates outnumber staff at any particular time. In the early days of his incarceration, the prisoner tries to maintain his self-image, but the system unyielding suppresses his efforts. He is not allowed to retain his identity and he endures systematic self-curtailment. The prisoners' debased conditions are tightly and zealously maintained to militate against the sheer power of their numbers in the event of a prison insurrection.

The loss of the criminal's self-esteem in prison and his subsequent reaction to the public's contempt create a raft of difficulties which continue to bedevil policymakers. When one's value of self is undermined, underrated and degraded, one's self-image becomes disfigured, and expectations and behaviors may adjust to reflect the way one is viewed by others. Unsurprisingly, the criminal is seldom the recipient of positive acknowledgment and applause. One could not expect anything other than repudiation from society after being convicted for flouting its laws and victimizing its citizens. Heinous, unspeakable crimes make society feel bitter and revengeful, and to suggest that we ponder the plight of the dejected criminal with his disreputable disposition can be a challenging assignment. Yet, we have to restrain our anger and consider the fact that understanding the imprisoned is one way of ensuring our own freedom. According to Thomas Paine (1776): "An avidity to punish is always dangerous to liberty. It leads men to stretch, to misinterpret, and to misapply even the best of laws."

Of course, the violent offender should be denounced for his hideous ruthlessness, but if we define him by his ruthlessness alone we are committing a flagrant error in our quest to understand him, and we might miss altogether his few positive attributes that can later serve as a scaffold to rebuild his self-image. Our stereotyping and wholesale condemnation of the offender often makes it difficult for him to survive as a law-abiding citizen, should he decide to do so, because every other act of deviousness is attached to his image, further fraying his tattered reputation and limiting his employment prospects.

"Society flatters itself in thinking it has rejected delinquents; delinquents have rejected society. The delinquent finds security in his gang. He creates a way of life and an image in which his need to hate and be hated find institutional..." exprehttp://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Prison--The-birthplace-of-hopelessness_18828170ssion." (Ardrey, 1961)

Anonymous said...

ILLNESS IS CONTAGIOUS - WHEN PRISON PERSONNEL IS IN THIS ENVIRONMENT TOO LONG, OSMOSIS TAKES PLACE. LIKE ALL MEMBERS OF A DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY cannot escape the dysfunction of one member, prison employees cannot escape their fate. In an attempt to do so, they end up abusing prisoners. Read again to understand: "Prison is the birthplace of hopelessness and the graveyard of self-esteem, where the premature infant of deviance is incubated and nourished into a robust criminal delinquent. Every structure and every routine in the prison mockingly reminds inmates of their powerlessness and disfigures their self-image. This demeaning sense of worthlessness and inferiority, woven in the psyche of the prisoners, is an indispensable instrument for the prison regime, as it executes its role of control and security in an environment where inmates outnumber staff at any particular time. In the early days of his incarceration, the prisoner tries to maintain his self-image, but the system unyielding suppresses his efforts. He is not allowed to retain his identity and he endures systematic self-curtailment. The prisoners' debased conditions are tightly and zealously maintained to militate against the sheer power of their numbers in the event of a prison insurrection."
This justified paranoia takes its toll on everybody.
When prisoners are mentally ill, the system CREATES SEVERELY CRIPPLED HUMAN BEINGS WHO WILL SUFFER FROM PTSD AND LEARNED HELPLESSNESS FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES.
GUESS WHO ENDS UP PAYING?

Anonymous said...

Everybody?

Anonymous said...

Do we need a law suit like this to change things? Corizon, Alameda County pay $8.3 million to settle jail death lawsuit
FEBRUARY 10TH, 2015

Alameda County and Corizon Health, Inc., the for-profit corporation that contracts with the county to provide heathcare services for inmates at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin and the Glenn Dyer Detention Center in Oakland, agreed Monday to the largest civil rights wrongful death settlement in California history.

Corizon and the county settled a lawsuit for $8.3 million with the adult children of Martin Harrison, a 49-year-old Oakland man who was Tased and beaten into unconsciousness by ten Alameda County sheriff’s deputies at Santa Rita Jail in 2010. The settlement was reached after one week of a scheduled ten-week trial. In 2013 the county settled with Harrison’s fifth child, a minor, for $1 million in a separate lawsuit.

Click here to read coverage by the Oakland Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, and Reuters.

It’s the second time in recent weeks that Corizon has met with unwelcome headlines. According to a Jan. 22 story in the New York Times, the New York State Commission of Correction, a watchdog agency overseeing jails and prisons, found that gross incompetence by Corizon medical personnel and correction officers at Rikers Island led to the death of a mentally ill inmate who was found naked and covered in feces after being locked in a cell for six days. The agency is calling on the U.S. Justice Department to launch a federal investigation into possible civil rights violations at the Corizon-run prison.

Anonymous said...

Similar stuff happens in solitary at all Texas prisons and at Skyview, Hodge, etc. Time to unleash the lawyers.

Anonymous said...

Incidentally, vans that transport inmates from one unit to another DO NOT always have seatbelts - the inmates seat in metal benches, unstrapped and often receive traumatic brain injuries, so yes, ubleash the lawyers!

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Anonymous said...

On 4/27/2015 at 08:12:00 AM I thanked GFB for letting me vent.

Little did I know that a few months later the neglected inmate, who inspired my rant, would die from medical neglect after having been bullied, tortured (chockhold, beating, ad seg), punished for being too ill to stay on a line or to follow orders quickly, starving for lack of food (too ill to go to chow hall)>

When they finally realized he was dying they did something: too little, too late. He died a slow and miserable death. SKYVIEW AND THE MICHAELS UNIT killed him. He was young.

I am too grieved to be angry any more. The insanity has to stop.

Anonymous said...

Skyview guards know how to avoid leaving marks by banging the heads of inmates on concrete walls and the UTMB folks are slow to learn how the game works.