Monday, October 12, 2015

Asthma death at TDCJ, Houston indigent defense fail, fixing parole, and other stories

Here are a handful of items which merit Grits readers attention even if I don't have time to blog on each individually:
  • Grits had missed this excellent story from WFAA on Curtis Garland's death in TDCJ because he couldn't get access to his asthma inhaler. Tragic. What a waste.
  • Grits has never met the Texas Observer's Emily DePrang but I'm such an admirer of her reporting, I fear if I ever do I'll come off as some sort of fanboy. Check out Emily's latest on the failures of the Harris County indigent defense system. Nailed it, again. Great job. (Note: I feel the same way about Melissa del Bosque; those two gals have been kicking ass for the Observer these last few years.)
  • Witness coercion and prosecutors withholding exculpatory evidence in a death penalty case - who is surprised? MORE: The CCA stayed the execution to review prosecutorial misconduct allegations.
  • In Dallas, Sheriff Lupe Valdez will no longer honor immigration holds for low-level offenses, reported the Dallas News. "Some 300 counties and cities have officially restricted the extent that they work with ICE." Critics are labeling Dallas a "sanctuary city" based on the new policy, but Grits suspects that won't hinder Valdez's quest for a fourth term as Sheriff.
  • Check out a 10-point program for reforming parole. Some good suggestions here.

34 comments:

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Grits, how did you obtain a Link to GFB in the Chron's right hand margin of the digital version?

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Re: DePrant article. This is simply unacceptable. Please issue a call to action that citizens such as myself can act upon.

Gilbert G. Garcia said...

Great Article on the plight of the Indigent. thanks,

john said...

You also do an excellent job of expose.
AND NOTHING HAPPENS TO THOSE IN POWER.
Now that's SWELL, for you and those news ladies and all in the business of reporting.
But I don't want my grandchildren enslaved, AND I FEAR FOR MY LIFE--I CAN'T BREATHE.
The branches run amok, the PUC and all the agencies, there's just no serious oversight. All The Fockers working in gov GET PAID all during any investigations. All the folks in elected offices are planning their next step up the gravy train, AND WHY DON'T ALL THE REPS GET THEIR OWN RADIO STATION SO THEY CAN DO ANYTHING THEY WANT??? Oh, maybe they already are.

Anonymous said...

Not allowing an inhaler is gross medical neglect and it shows deliberate indifference that has resulted in a death; thus, this is a form of
CULPABLE HOMICIDE.
Those who work for TDCJ often refer to inmates as "animals" and call their families "POS". I don't like labels, but, in this case (as in many others which I cannot report because they do retaliate)who is/are the "animals"? This is not an isolated incident - we all know it.
How can TDCJ employees who sin either by a sin of commission by participating in all sorts of abuses, or by sins of omission, by not reporting the abuse for fear of being fired, can look in the mirror and go to work every day?
Well, many TDCJ employees can't - thus the high turnover. The "lifers" remain and become more callous every day.
When there is absolute power - and TDCJ wardens - do have it, accompanied by a culture of silence and lack of accountability, you have tyranny.
The cat is out of the bag: there IS abuse of power, money gravy train for few higher up, misery for inmates and their families... you have a Darwinian society ready for the next revolution. Let's hope it will be peaceful. I fear the alternative.
I am just "talking" here, but I hope that at LEAST ONE LEGISLATOR, WARDEN, CO,--- will have an awakening: They are PART of the problem, please, try to fix it!


Anonymous said...

Anon 7:22 deserves a little rebuttal.

First of all, inhalers are often given to known asthmatics as "KOP Meds" meaning "keep on person". Exceptions to this is most commonly misuse of the inhaler or failure to follow safe medication instructions. That being said, personally I don't understand why this offender didn't have an inhaler, or why he was not treated as an emergency if the inhaler was not effective. Heat and humidity is not universally a "trigger" for severe asthmatic attacks. But it can be, and severe asthmatics can easily die even in 2015 and in any environment.

Secondly, personnel attitudes: I've for 15 years worked in county, state, and federal facilities and have not observed offenders being referred to by staff as "animals" or their families as "POS". On the other hand, we on the staff are often recipients of this. The vast majority of staff refer to inmates as "offenders" or whatever the current PC term may be. We use the term we're instructed to use.

Abuse of offenders by staff: I know abuse of offenders by staff is supposed to occur but I don't see it. Fear of retaliation by staff wishing to report abuse isn't a cause of high turnover: low pay is.

Support your favorite criminal justice advocacy organization.

Prison Doc

Anonymous said...

Prison Doc,

I respect the fact that you come on here and comment. The information you provide is often informative and helpful. And, I'm not endorsing the previous commenter's comments.

However, having a loved one who was, until recently, at the Lane Murray Unit, I suspect that, if you are a prison doctor, you don't see much of what really goes on in the units. I say this because, based on the experience of the loved one I previously mentioned, most inmates rarely see a doctor. If you aren't seeing very many inmates, how do you know what it happening with them?

The person I'm referring to suffered from a serious mental illness and was never permitted to see a psychiatrist, was denied appropriate medication, and faced retaliation and abuse from staff because of her mental illness. Unfortunately, Prison Doc, you weren't around when officers were retaliating against her for the legitimate grievances she filed. No doctor was around at those times, or any other time for that matter. A doctor there is a rare sight, indeed.

It took about a year of phone calls, letters to the ombudsman, executive director and legislators before this person was moved to Skyview and finally began receiving some treatment. While I respect the information you provide here, Prison Doc, there are a lot of things going on in TDCJ that you may not have the opportunity to see and which are completely indefensible.

Anonymous said...

To: prison doc
horrible abuses have occurred and are occurring daily in ALL tdcj facilities: since you work there, I am not surprised by your denial in reply to the other post.
This is the way it goes at tdcj:
1. it doesn't happen.
2. it did not happen.
3. if it did happen it was at another unit not at mine.
3a. - oh, ya, this USED to happen (see lawsuits and the feds being involved), but we fixed it.
4. if something happened at my unit it is the offender's fault.
5. oh, wait! the cameras did not work, so nothing happened because there is no record of it.
6. the officers have a different story than the inmate(s) - inmates lie, officers don't - so no, it did not happen.
7. if they paid us more, we'd be nicer.
8. we are the victims here - we do the state a favor by taking this job which includes free housing, retirement benefits, a quite-above-minimum-wage salary and no requirement of a college degree or that i further my education - oh my? aren't three weeks of continuing education or three months of initial training count? That's a lot of studying!We are the true victims.
9. Actually, if you paid us more, you may then require a college education over 2 years and many would lose their jobs...... no, better this way.
10. inmates have all the privileges, we have none - oh my? who "forced" me to take this job?
11. start from 1 - no, it did not, it does not, happen. we are nice people.

Anonymous said...

To consider employment as a TDCJ Correctional Officer:

You must be a citizen of the U.S., or an alien authorized to work in the U.S.

You must be at least 18 years old.

You must possess a High School Diploma from an accredited senior high school or equivalent, or a state or military-issued General Education Development (GED) certificate. View information about foreign education credentials.

College degree NOT required.

Correctional Officer Benefits:

Vacation leave

Sick leave

Paid holidays

Retirement

Housing if you work in certain units.

Group life and health insurance

Dental programs

Free meals while on duty

Uniforms and equipment are furnished at no cost.

Laundry of uniforms is furnished at no cost.

Effective September 1, 2015
Full-time Correctional Officer Salary
Title *Monthly Salary Months of
Employment
CO I $2,695.55 0 to 2
CO II $2,853.45 3 to 8
CO III $3,019.84 9 to 14
CO III $3,191.86 15 to 30
CO IV $3,284.27 31 to 42
CO IV $3,378.87 43 to 54
CO IV $3,480.77 55 to 90
CO V $3,587.45 91+

Beginning salaries are low, but they are in line with Texas wages for non-degreed employees, in rural communities where the COs are employed.

Most folks in rural areas get paid less than cos, even with a 2-year degree, which is not required any way.

Granted, some jobs are less dangerous or less boring than those of COs. Yes, it is dangerous to be a CO, it does not carry any prestige that I know of, and you can get burned out easily.

Pay does not justify abusive treatment of inmates which, according to many "documented" reports, occurs at several facilities. It is disingenuous and futile to deny that some guards abuse inmates.
The Texas tribune has a good article on this:
http://www.texastribune.org/2014/04/03/force-against-texas-inmates-rise/

Anonymous said...

Please, if you don't believe abuses occur, read this, from prison justice league:

"ACCOUNTABILITY Estelle prisoners are frequently victims of verbal or physical abuse from Estelle staff for seemingly no reason. PJL’s investigation showed that blind, deaf, and mobility impaired prisoners account for almost half of assaults reported by our members. According to PJL members and detailed in our legal complaint, any officer walking the halls of Estelle has the opportunity to physically abuse a prisoner—either by striking him, twisting his arm, slamming him into a wall, or throwing him to the ground. Due to the lack of accountability and discipline among correctional officers, prison staff can inflict abuse with little fear of reprisal from senior staff. Since staff abuse on prisoners is commonly accepted at Estelle, assaults are commonplace in the hallways and in plain view of other staff. In fact, 76% of survey respondents reported feeling unsafe in the hallways at Estelle. ......“Greg”, a 30-year-old man from East Austin, has been in the system since he was 14 years old, aging out of the juvenile system at 17. When he was eight, his right eye was hit by a rock and was injured. In addition, he has glaucoma in his left eye, a condition that worsens as he ages. Greg has dealt with poor vision and other side effects as a result of his conditions and wears large plastic glasses to protect his eyes from further damage. On February 12, 2014, at 2:30 PM, Greg had just finished washing his face when he noticed his right eye was painful and leaking fluid. Having experience with eye problems in the past and fearing a serious problem, he immediately requested to be escorted to the infirmary. On the way to the infirmary, Sergeant Williams and Officer Abbott approached him. Knowing that Sgt. Williams has a history of violent altercations with other prisoners, Greg attempted to gain the attention of another officer who might be able to assist him. Instead, Williams grabbed Greg and forcefully slammed him against the wall. He then handcuffed him and together they made their way down the hall to the infirmary. Greg says, “Sgt. Williams was showing too much aggression for a situation that was not hostile.” As Greg walked down the hallways with Sgt. Williams, he continued to try to elicit help from other staff members. According to Greg, Lt. McCreary grabbed Greg by his shirt collar and said, “Shut up, before I green light my officers to slam you on your face.” When Greg finally arrived at the infirmary, he attempted to share information about his eye injury with the nurse, but was threatened by Sgt. Williams to stop talking or “else he was going on his face.” Greg disregarded this threat and opened his mouth to ask for help when, almost instantly, Sgt. Williams and Abbott slammed him into the insulin cart on the way to the ground where Sgt. Williams repeatedly slammed Greg’s head into the cement floor. In handcuffs, Greg wasn’t able to move his body to protect his eye and soon there was a pool of blood on the floor. Greg was taken to a free world hospital where he had an emergency surgery to remove his right eyeball. .... 17 CONCLUSION The Texas Department of Criminal Justice must be held accountable....
For a digital download, visit: http://www.prisonjusticeleague.org

Anonymous said...


There are several types of abuses against prisoners. Sexual offenses are some of these abuses.

"Since 2000, the TX state prison system’s inspector general has referred nearly 400 cases of staff sex crimes against inmates to prosecutors. An analysis by The Marshall Project found that prosecutors refused to pursue almost half of those cases."
"Of 126 prison workers, mostly correctional officers, convicted of sexual misconduct or assault, just nine were sentenced to serve time in state jail. The majority of the rest received fines ranging from $200 to $4,000 and a few years on a type of probation called deferred adjudication, which results in a clean criminal record if conditions are met."
6/20/15
http://www.newsweek.com/texas-prison-rape-capital-us-344729

We need to render TDCJ accountable. I doubt it will ever happen.

sunray's wench said...

Prison Doc - with respect, how much time do you spend on the runs or in the dayrooms?

Anonymous said...

RIP Mr. Curtis Garland, we will not forget.

Anonymous said...

And no, we will not forgive either......

Anonymous said...

WHY IT IS DIFFICULT, IF NOT IMPOSSIBLE, FOR PARENTS TO FORGIVE TDCJ's COs when they contribute or cause senseless deaths.
Parental/family grief is generally considered one of the most severe, enduring and debilitating
forms of bereavement. For many parents or families, the bond with their child or loved one is ‘the most significant interactive relationship they have’ in their lifetime. The death of a LOVED ONE and the subsequent bereavement for parents has been shown as being associated with more overwhelming reactions and severe adjustment disorders than other forms of bereavement. And children who lose an imprisoned parent to a senseless death, may never recover as there will always be "unfinished business".
" ../ studies show that parents of deceased adult-children maintain very close ties with their child even after 15 years of bereavement. The horrible deaths of those who were incarcerated and died for lack of care or for committed atrocities by guards or police, will affect the lives of family members for-ever. This is true for victims of crime as well.
With the death of their child, parents, not only lose their hopes and dreams for the future, but they also experience anger at the way their child died. The anger remains for the rest of their lives. While under more normal circumstances anger may be replaced by acceptance, prison-caused deaths are similar to deaths of victims of crime (some will take issue with this, but guards' abuses are crimes, even when the guards are not prosecuted.) The bond between parent and each individual child is considered by some to be irreplaceable or, ‘sacred’.This bond between parent and child ‘cannot be broken by lack of interaction, due to incarceration, because they are not contingent upon the behaviour of the other. The incarceration of a loved one puts into question the identity and role of family members and the death leaves many unfinished business or lose ends. Consequently, bereaved parents or family members may face intense feelings of guilt, impotence and worthlessness, anger, helplessness, despair. While victims of other crimes may receive sympathy and community support, the families of the incarcerated are utterly alone as stigma, shame, judgmental attitudes, and "you must deserve this" attitudes prevail in a society which sees family members as guilty as the incarcerated.
Parents do not expect to outlive their child; it goes against the natural order and justice of the universe. And American citizens do not expect for their children or family membersto die in captivity at the hands of those who are supposed to protect and serve.
When a family member has been incarcerated for any length of time, the journey for the parent/family and child is shared and their lives become much more enmeshed as "everyone" is doing time. Thus the pain about their death becomes complex and complicated. IT IS DIFFICULT TO FORGIVE, IMPOSSIBLE TO FORGET.

Anonymous said...

Adding to the above post: dedicated to all the family members whose loved ones have died in captivity under questionable circumstances. May you all find peace and solace in their memory, which will always live in your hearts.

Anonymous said...

Texas is notorious in having one of the worst prison in the country, according to one survey:
"Serving time in prison is not supposed to be pleasant. Nor, however, is it supposed to include being raped by fellow prisoners or staff, beaten by guards for the slightest provocation, driven mad by long-term solitary confinement, or killed off by medical neglect. These are the fates of thousands of prisoners every year—men, women, and children housed in lockups that give Gitmo and Abu Ghraib a run for their money.

..... with the grimmest claims to infamy.
We will be rolling out profiles of all of the contenders in the coming days, complete with photos and video. Now let's head on down to Texas to visit our second contender, where condemned men (even severely mentally ill ones) spend their final years under what are arguably the nation's harshest death-row conditions.

ALLAN B. POLUNSKY UNIT, A.K.A. DEATH ROW (LIVINGSTON, TEXAS)
Who's in charge: Richard Alford, former warden at Polunksy, he now oversees all the region's prisons; Oliver Bell, chairman, Texas Board of Criminal Justice.
The basics: "The most lethal [death row] anywhere in the democratic world" is also probably "the hardest place to do time in Texas," writes Robert Perkinson, author of the book TexasTough. Indeed, the all-solitary Allan B. Polunsky Unit houses condemned Texans under some of the nation's harshest death row conditions. The prisoners are housed in single cells on 22-hour-a-day lockdown, and even during their daily "recreation" hour, they are confined in separate cages. With no access to phones, televisions, contact visits, they remain in essentially a concrete tomb (PDF) until execution day—a stretch of at least three years for the mandatory appeals, and far longer if they opt to keep fighting. Some have been known to commit suicide or waive their appeals rather than continue living under such conditions.

The backlash: At Polunsky, the "emotional torture" of awaiting death in total isolation is "driving men out of their minds," former prisoner Anthony Graves told senators last year at the first-ever Judiciary Committee hearing on solitary confinement. "I would watch guys come to prison totally sane and in three years they don't live in the real world anymore," recalled Graves, who was exonerated in 2010, after spending more than 18 years on death row.

Graves detailed for the senators some of the profoundly erratic behavior of his fellow prisoners. "I know a guy who would sit in the middle of the floor, rip his sheet up, wrap it around himself, and light it on fire. Another guy…would take his feces and smear it all over his face as though he was in military combat."

Mike FarrellLISTEN: Click on the arrow for audio of M*A*S*H* actor Mike Farrell reading our essay, "How Crazy Is Too Crazy to be Executed?"
This man, Graves added, was ruled competent for execution. While on the gurney, "he was babbling incoherently to the officers, 'I demand that you release me soldier, this is your captain speaking.' These were the words coming out of a man's mouth, who was driven insane by the prison conditions, as the poison was being pumped into his arms."

Another prisoner, a paranoid schizophrenic named Andre Thomas, scooped out his eye and ate it during his stay at Polunsky. He, too, remains on track for execution. It is perhaps no wonder that Dallas insurance executive Charles Terrell asked to have his name removed from the facility after it became death row......"
http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/05/10-worst-prisons-america-allan-polunsky-unit-texas-death-row

From Dallas said...

Humanizing the death of an addict - could have been any "criminal"
I met him–
Intubated, sedated, motionless, and swollen.
His eyes shut and he, surrendered,
Embodied in defeat of an addiction that now lay still–
Attached to life like a puppet,
Through lines and tubes that carried fluids through his veins
And oxygen through his lungs and his body.

I knew him–
Not now, not as my patient, but as echoes of stories in my past.
I recognized the story of a person living a broken life,
Hanging on by lines that carried heroin through his veins,
Allowing for an absent existence of
Scheming, feening, using, [barely] breathing.

And then I saw him–
His life, his struggles, his anger, and his hurt
Through the eyes of his mother.
She could not accept this awful disaster.
She sat across from me, tearing,
Looking to me for answers.
She asked for hope and strength.
She wanted forgiveness and relief, but more than anything,
She wanted her addict.

That’s when I noticed me.
I could not offer any of it.
It was a disaster.
The fear was palpable,
And his death, came thereafter.

I knew she’d suffered through years of distress, angst, and fear,
Of the very situation that brought her, today, here.
I felt relief, for her, for a moment,
Though quickly realized how worthy, to her,
Was the life of this addict–

And as soon as he took his last breath,
A hole was left in the middle of her chest.
For despite the pain, the tears, and the struggles,
In moments of health, he was close to his mother–
And the hope of recovery far surpassed the pain,
So that living with his addiction,
was much easier than surviving with his death.

- See more at: http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/addiction/death-addict#sthash.5h7NVYDg.dpuf

Anonymous said...

The problem with inmates deaths is the incredible paranoia of correctional officers towards the inmates. No matter what an inmate tells them, their first reaction is to dismiss it. Read on:
.....training manual insist on your “being professional.” One section warns officers “inmates will use flattery and appeal to your ego.” ......a video called “con games inmates play” trains them to never believe an inmate and “employee susceptibility traits self-test” ascertains the vulnerability to inmate setups. Trainers may also explained how the progression of vocabulary used to label prisoners has changed chronologically from “convict” to “inmate” to “offender.” .... The trainer scrawled the “meaning” of each of these terms on the chalkboard. Next to “convict,” he wrote “con artist.” Next
to “inmate,” he wrote “they’ve always got the ‘in.’” Next to “offenders,” he
wrote “they offend everybody.” Notably absent was any explanation of why the terminology changed, how the “meanings” of the terms were determined, or what officers should do with their newfound knowledge about the terms’ “meanings.” The message sent? No matter what you call them, prisoners are
sneaky, offensive liars who are out to get you.....
OFFICERS BECOME PARANOID AND LOSE THE ABILITY TO BE FLEXIBLE in their judgment..... INMATES DIE.
adapted from: http://www.sarahjtracy.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Tracy-Construction-of-COs-QI.pdf

Anonymous said...

To: 10:24:00 PM
"OFFICERS BECOME PARANOID AND LOSE THE ABILITY TO BE FLEXIBLE in their judgment..... INMATES DIE."
That's why hiring 18 years old out of high school, or hiring folks with a minimum amount of literacy, educated in rural areas with low-quality schools, and NO college requirement does not work. A college education hones one's critical skills. At present, many correctional officers lack the age, the experience, and the education required to perform their duties correctly.
... w employees’ emotional
experiences and understandings are constructed through mundane
practices designed to meet organizational norms such as “don’t get sucked
in” and “don’t take things personally.” In meeting these and other norms, officers
strive to appear respectful when they feel disgust or anger, maintain
wariness/suspicion even when they feel comfortable, and act calm when
they are in tragic- or fear-inducing situations. Doing so goes beyond manufacturing
displays of phony feeling; working to uphold emotion labor norms
serves to construct emotional identity.
As I trailed officers in their work, I met with a number of emotional stances
or fronts that seemed strange and in some cases, even irresponsible or deviant
Tracy / CONSTRUCTING CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS 513
(Tracy, 2003). Officers were disdainful of inmates; they consistently referred
to them as the “scum of the earth” and “disgusting filth.” They ignored others
by not answering their questions and not making eye contact. They were also
paranoid. Despite my protestations, even until the end of my research,
some officers thought I was a management spy. I also found officers to display
a withdrawn, apathetic demeanor. They refrained from questioning
organizational structures that would affect them and from actively resisting/
modifying their work world. When officers did actively express excitement
or glee, it was usually when inmates did something wrong.
Agoal of my research was to make sense of these puzzling performances. I
hoped to understand why officers displayed emotional demeanors that initially
seemed foreign and strange and to analyze how these constructions
became normalized through everyday interaction. Indeed, a social constructionist
approach encourages an understanding of emotion as constructed by
and managed within the constraints of interaction, communication, and local
social norms (Averill, 1994; Oatley, 1993). From this point of view, emotion is
not a separate object that can be detached from linguistic labels operative
within the local moral order. We experience emotions that fit within a specific
language and repertoire of social practices (Harré, 1986) and understand our
emotionality in relation to the power/knowledge discourses within which
we are entwined (Foucault, 1977).
http://www.sarahjtracy.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Tracy-Construction-of-COs-QI.pdf

From Dallas said...

"Correctional officers’ central duty is to monitor inmates—whether that
entails conducting strip searches, doing rounds, overseeing visitation, or simply
watching. Although these duties make up the lion’s share of correctional
officer work, officers only occasionally catch inmates in wrongdoing and thus,
officers rarely see tangible “fruits” of their monitoring efforts. As one officer
said, “Unlike a carpenter or even a computer worker, at the end of the day, you
have nothing to show for your work. Here the goal is to do as much as possi-
ble to prevent incidents.” Considering this, it should come as no surprise that
“catching” or “busting” inmates could result in a thrill for officers. Busts
served as “proof” to officers that their never-ending, monotonous monitoring
routines are actually important. Therefore, inasmuch as inmate busts affirm
officers’ consistently required monitoring activities, they also embody “success.”
Together, these processes help explain the officers’ tendency toward
evidencing an “us-them” mentality.
* * * * *
Officers are faced with a variety of organizational norms, including expectations
that they be suspicious of inmates and each other, not take things “personal,”
be “firm, fair and consistent,” and follow the rules, yet remain flexible
(Tracy, 2001). In devising performances that attempt to achieve these expectations,
officers not only engage in their own brand of stoic emotion labor but
also play a part in constructing organizationally harnessed emotional identities—identities
that are marked by paranoia, withdrawal, detachment, and
an “us-them” approach toward inmates.
When I shared these constructions with officers and administrators during
member checks and organizational presentations, many nodded their
head, reluctantly accepting the demeanors that marked their colleagues and
themselves.
---------------However, they also associated these constructions with officer
complacency, breaches in security, and abuses of power; they expressed a
preference for officers who could be caring while still being careful. ----------------
My analysis
suggests that if administrators want to alter the work feelings so common
among officers, they must closely examine their organizations’ norms and
practices. For instance, if facilities truly want officers who are less tough and
more compassionate, they must be proactive in eliminating the stigma that
marks officers who seem uncertain or ask for help from colleagues or organizational
counselors. Furthermore, if they desire officers who are more
proactive and questioning in their job, they should consider the ways that
training sessions discourage and even penalize those who ask questions or
attempt to understand reasons behind organizational rules and regulations.

From Dallas said...

The above from: http://www.sarahjtracy.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Tracy-Construction-of-COs-QI.pdf

From Dallas said...

The following explains the somewhat toxic nature of the prison system, where an "us-versus them" mentality emerges. This mentality, while extremely useful to set appropriate professional boundaries, it can become quite emotionally toxic in the long run. This toxicity (AND I HAVE SEEN IN MY OWN PRIVATE PRACTICE CLIENTS) is dangerous to BOTH inmates and officers:
"My analysis also indicates that becoming detached and treating inmates as
“Other” are part and parcel of the job and serve many organizational purposes
such as helping officers avoid getting “sucked in” by inmate games.
However, these emotional constructions are less “useful” in officers’ attempts
to manage day-to-day activities in spaces not lined with barbed wire. Indeed,
administrators might consider incorporating into a training session the ways
that work-related emotional constructions such as paranoia and detachment
seep into employees’ private lives. Granted, talking about these issues would
not dissolve them. Nevertheless, opening up this type of a discussion allows
employees to know that they are not alone in their difficulties with transitions
from work to home and provides opportunities to share personal solutions.

In conclusion, through the micro-practices of work, employees’ emotional
identities are continually (re)composed. As correctional officers engage in
emotional performances to meet largely paradoxical organizational mandates
to respect and nurture, yet suspect and discipline, inmates, work feelings
such as paranoia, detachment, withdrawal, and an us-them mentality
emerge. When we view emotional demeanors as largely “made” through
interactions between individual practices and organizational discursivities,
then we must also submit that internal feeling and external expression work
in tandem, reinforcing one another, both affected by the local moral order. The
fact that these constructions find their way into officers’ private lives challenges
the idea that emotion is intrinsically more “real” in private life
(Hochschild, 1983). Real emotion—in fragmented and layered forms, productive
in both functional and dysfunctional ways—is constructed within the
constraints of organizational norms."
http://www.sarahjtracy.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Tracy-Construction-of-COs-QI.pdf

From Dallas said...

"Without diminishing the significant trials faced by inmates, including racism,
class bias, and sexual abuse (Davis, 1998), in this piece I turn my gaze on
the keepers of the disappeared, a population that faces its own significant
challenges and is, perhaps, as “disciplined” by the prison industrial complex
as its inmates. Correctional officers experience medium to high levels of burnout
for a number of reasons including role conflict, danger, strained relations
with inmates, administration and co-employees, lack of influence, overcrowd-
ing, inadequate staff, negative personal and social image, and lack of social
support from colleagues, friends, and family (Huckabee, 1992). The research
paints a picture of correctional officers as hardened, cynical, stressed out,
caustic, ritualistic, and alienated (Poole & Regoli, 1981; Walters, 1986)—-----
----------traits that can result in passivity and the inability to respond with flexibility to volatile incidents (Cheek & Miller, 1982). -----------------------
These problems are linked to several dreary results for officers, including high levels of turnover, dissatisfaction, alcoholism, divorce, psychological distress, and a life expectancy of 59 years
(Cheek, 1984). http://www.sarahjtracy.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Tracy-Construction-of-COs-QI.pd

IT CAN ALSO LEAD TO INMATES UN-NECESSARY DEATHS

PS) I am aware that the above research is a bit old: the problems, though, remain.

Anonymous said...

Several inmate deaths occur at TDCJ as a result of staff negligence. I hate to shock your readers but lawsuits filed by the inmate's families are almost ALWAYS DISMISSED by the 5th Circuit Court. Consequently there is no impetus for change at TDCJ. Maybe the close focus needs to be on the 5th Circuit Court and not TDCJ.

Anonymous said...

The 5th Circuit Court is very likely in cahoots with the Governor and the Governor seems to be in cahoots with TDCJ: thus, no accountability. Or may be the dynamics are different. but one way or another they cover each other's rear end. Inmates, their families and the public get screwed ove.... and over. Tyranny. The pain they cause cannot be described.

Anonymous said...

They finally dealt with a few fish: "The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recently affirmed the conviction of Marc Rosenthal, a former Austin plaintiffs attorney who is serving 20 years in federal prison for bribing a South Texas judge.
Rosenthal was a key defendant in a wide-ranging public corruption case involving former 404th District Judge Abel Limas of Brownsville. A former shareholder in Rosenthal & Watson, Rosenthal was indicted in 2011 for bribing Limas in exchange for favorable rulings and fabricating evidence.
Limas eventually left the bench and joined Rosenthal's firm in an of counsel position. Limas pleaded guilty to a single racketeering charge in 2011."


Read more: http://www.texaslawyer.com/id=1202740292470/Fifth-Circuit-Affirms-Lawyers-Long-Prison-Sentence#ixzz3pDKaMwyq

Anonymous said...

@ 5:04:00 AM
"Several inmate deaths occur at TDCJ as a result of staff negligence. I hate to shock your readers but lawsuits filed by the inmate's families are almost ALWAYS DISMISSED by the 5th Circuit Court. Consequently there is no impetus for change at TDCJ."
You are absolutely correct. And this begs the question:
DOES TDCJ NEED LAWSUITS TO CHANGE? Apparently "YES".
This tell me that the higher-ups at TDCJ, and many at lower level as well, have "no" conscience. Just like the mafia and their "families".

And then they wonder why correctional officers are only one notch up (if even that much) in the social ladder, as compared to the level of inmates? Inmates are at the very bottom, guards and wardens are not considered much higher by many (rightly or wrongly, this is a reality.)

When moral and ethical concerns are based on an "external" locus of control (=lawsuits), you have a amoral/immoral mindset, as one is not guided by their own internal sense of what's right and wrong, EVEN IF THEY MAY BELIEVE THEY ARE, as they tend to justify/deny their own actions to be able to survive the toxic, putrid environment they work in.
This was explained in the previous posts which pointed out the "indoctrination" received by correctional officers during training and the subsequent emotional repercussions.

If you mix:
(officers paranoic indoctrination + an amoral sense of control + needs for making a living in areas with no jobs -(minus) ability to think critically + greed by the higher-ups who profit from the prison industrial complex at many levels + no effective legislative means to address abuses)
= (you get) TDCJ AND DEAD INMATES

IT'S QUITE A SIMPLE ALGORITHM FOR TYRANNY - SIMPLE, REALLY.

I INVITE THOSE WITH A CONSCIENCE TO DO SOMETHING. I INVITE TIFA AND LAWYERS NOT TO DISCOURAGE FAMILIES TO FILE LAWSUITS, I INVITE EVERYBODY WITH A SENSE OF JUSTICE TO BECOME ACTIVE ON SOCIAL MEDIA. THE WHEEL THAT SQUEALS GETS THE GREASE - eventually.

THANKS GFB FOR THIS FORUM.

From Dallas said...

AMEN!

Anonymous said...

Deaths of prisoners are not just statistics. Their families, grieving, experiences trauma, which renders life more grim:
“I am no longer one of them, however. They are up there, on the face of the earth; I am down here, in the bottom of a well. They possess the light, while I am in the process of losing it. Sometimes I feel that I may never find my way back to that world, that I may never again be able to feel the peace of being enveloped in the light…. Down here there are no seasons. Not even time exists.”—Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Murakami captures in compelling imagery how trauma devastatingly disrupts the ordinary, average-everyday linearity and unity of temporality, the sense of stretching-along from the past to an open future. Experiences of emotional trauma become freeze-framed into an eternal present in which one remains forever trapped, or to which one is condemned to be perpetually returned by life’s slings and arrows. In the region of trauma all duration or stretching along collapses, the traumatic past becomes present, and future loses all meaning other than endless repetition. Because trauma so profoundly modifies the universal or shared structure of temporality, the traumatized person quite literally lives in another kind of reality, an experiential world felt to be incommensurable with those of others. This felt incommensurability, in turn, contributes to the sense of alienation and estrangement from other human beings that typically haunts the traumatized person. Torn from the communal fabric of being-in-time, trauma remains insulated from human dialogue.
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/feeling-relating-existing/201510/trauma-destroys-time

From Dallas said...

"There is a problem with contaminate water in some TX prisons. It contains ARSENIC. It causes skin cancer. Skin cancers cause DEATHS which will be reported by TDCJ as being from "natural" causes.
In the September 2015 edition of Prison Legal News, Panagioti Tsolkas of the newly formed Prison Ecology Project wrote a scathing article that shed light on a serious problem at a prison located in Navasota, Texas. Dangerous levels of arsenic have been found at the Wallace Pack Unit." (see the Prison Legal News article here: https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/issue/26/9/#article-18369)
- http://sfbayview.com/2015/10/prison-officials-aca-inspectors-ignore-contaminated-water-in-texas-prisons/
"Arsenic is a heavy metal that is poison to human beings! I actually was housed at the Wallace Pack Unit at the time the article was released. In fact, I had been sounding the alarm about high levels of arsenic in Wallace Pack’s water supply.

On Aug. 19, 2015, the Wallace Pack Unit was being audited by the American Correctional Association, commonly known as the ACA. The ACA sets standards, policies and best practices for prisons across Amerika. ACA even issues a coveted accreditation to those Amerikan prisons that meet their “strict” standards.

During the audit, one of the inspectors spoke to me personally and the first thing I mentioned to her was the presence of high levels of Arsenic in our water supply. ACA gave Wallace Pack Unit its stamp of approval. However, one question has been haunting me and keeping me up at night:

“How could the American Correctional Association continue to give Wallace Pack Unit passing marks and rave reviews if the drinking water is contaminated with poison?”

An intelligent person could surmise that in order to receive accreditation from the “esteemed” ACA, clean water would definitely factor in heavily, wouldn’t you think? However, this is not the case at all. In fact, I have discovered that there are numerous facilities operated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice which have contaminated water supplies!

So what we have here is some type of conspiratorial relationship between TDCJ and the ACA. Another question has presented itself: Does the ACA have the integrity to contact the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and file a complaint against Texas and TDCJ for violations of the federal Save Drinking Water Act (Public Law 95-523)? (I INVITE TIFA TO DO SO)

I do not think they have the integrity to go the extra mile to ensure prisoners consume safe and clean water. You see there is a symbiotic relationship between TDCJ, the state of Texas and the ACA – a relationship based on mutual benefits, corruption, secrecy and lies!

“How could the American Correctional Association continue to give Wallace Pack Unit passing marks and rave reviews if the drinking water is contaminated with poison?”

The ACA receives generous donations from TDCJ and from Texans who have a vested interest in the smooth running of TDCJ’s corporate enterprise – an enterprise based on a slave plantation work model. The donations ACA receives act as bribes, buying silence when ACA auditors discover serious violations that could shut down prison operations.

Arsenic in the water, black mold in prisoners’ living areas, excessive amounts of bacteria in water, roach and rodent infestation and serious building code violations are all ignored and covered up by our “good friends” at the ACA."
Read more here: http://sfbayview.com/2015/10/prison-officials-aca-inspectors-ignore-contaminated-water-in-texas-prisons/

ASTHMA AND DEATHS FROM LACK OF INHALERS ARE NOT THE ONLY NEGLECT OR ABUSE - OTHER SLOWER DEATHS OCCUR BECAUSE OF OTHER SERIOUS ISSUES HARDLY NOBODY TALKS ABOUT.

Emily DePrang said...

Sir, if I'd known your email, Ida been writing you fanmail for about four years. This blog is why I started reporting on criminal justice. I had no beat when the Observer hired me in 2011. No idea what I wanted to do. Then Dave Mann said, "Oh, and you gotta read Grits" and once I started I couldn't stop. My work is born of your example.

TLDR:
http://media.giphy.com/media/AToqINiV1tdUQ/giphy-facebook_s.jpg

Do hit me up at your leisure. I'm in Austin now. emily.deprang@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

@Emily DePrang my thoughts exactly. The Grits blog is a healthy addiction

Anonymous said...


Here is another death.
http://valleycentral.com/features/rio-grande-diabetes-page/family-claims-prison-left-tooth-untreated-leading-to-their-sons-death?id=986504