Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Most Texas inmates surveyed say they've been retaliated against for filing a grievance

Although the state auditor's office found the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in "substantial compliance" with laws and agency regs regarding its grievance procedures for inmates and employees (see the full report - pdf), the details of an inmate survey recorded in their recent report were particularly telling.

A whopping 62% of surveyed inmates told auditors they'd personally been retaliated against for filing a complaint (!), and 35% said they were afraid to file a grievance because of potential retaliation by staff. (p. 12).

With more than 150,000 inmates housed at 106 different units, TDCJ processed 219,386 inmate grievances in 2007 at the unit level, and another 37,196 appeals, according to the SAO. About 13% of inmate grievances were resolved with some action taken, but most of the time that occurred informally; only 5% of grievances were resolved with any action taken through the process itself.

1,034 inmate grievances in 2007 were associated with a use of force report filed by a staff member.

Of the unit-level grievances, 25,830 were medical related; 26% of medical-related grievances complained of denial of access to medication or health care services. (pp 19-20) Forty two percent of inmates told SAO they did not "know how to file an informal complaint about medical services using an I-60" form.

SAO found that some medical oversight documents were rubber stamped instead of signed so, it was impossible to tell if the right person really reviewed them. Causing further concern along that line, "214 cases ... listed a date the case was received that was after the date the case was closed." (p. 23) In its response to the auditor, TDCJ said it changed policies to now require an actual signature on these medical records.

TDCJ condcucted 34,436 investigations in 2007 of offender-on-offender sexual abuse (p. 31), however the agency only confirmed "836 alleged sexual assaults from September 1, 2006, through February 29, 2008, according to the Safe Prisons Program Office." That seems like an awfully high false-alarm rate to me, though I'm sure there are many reasons for it. But to judge by the volume of incidents there are to investigate, the scope of the problem seems to dwarf the confirmed annual numbers.

Just 18% of TDCJ employees disagreed that their own grievance system "works," while 78% of inmates disagreed the system for prisoners works.


Anonymous said...

Speaking from experience...retaliation happens all the time from CO's to an inmate that filed a grievance. That's how an inmate would know if his grievance caused the officer to get in trouble, even if it was officially denied. I've seen one CO retaliate for another CO so it can't be called retaliation. Most of the time it was just a CO playing his/her little power game, or throwing away an inmate's contraband during a shakedown, even if it wasn't contraband. It's no surprise, really, considering the mentality of some of the officers.

Anonymous said...

Retaliation does indeed happen all the time for even the mildest of grievances. I filed a grievance about the inedible food we were being served(rocks and sticks in the beans, rat-gnawed boxes of cereal, etc) and the dorm unit officer that took the grievance form, who had nothing at all to do with the grievance herself, went to my cubicle a few hours later and tore it to shreds, ripping and stepping on my children's photos, ruining my commissary supplies, and so on. After finishing, she looked at the group of women sitting in the dayroom watching this and said to us, "That'll teach you to file a grievance!"

Anonymous said...

Only a completely independent grievance system can work in an environment like TDCJ. Units would have to be rated based grievance statistics. Remediation would benefit everyone in the unit, employees and inmates.

Inmates would need to submit grievance forms that protect their identity. If everyone filed a form every month, it would be far more difficult to retaliate on an individual basis.

The current system is really busted!! Real change is needed.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 10:04. The time has come to separate the grievance procedures from the units. It's a disservice to the the units and the agency in having the fox guarding the hen house. The same should apply to the inmate disciplinary process.

Procedures should be put into place to punish those inmates who file false grievances.


Anonymous said...

An inmate filing a false grievance? Why would he do that? These poor people have been unjustly incarcerated for crimes they didn't commit, and are abused daily, even hourly, by people who wrongly have concluded that they are criminals.

Anonymous said...

I investigated a disciplinary case the other morning and the offender replied he would get a grievance and file it on the officer because he felt disrespected about getting a TDCJ case. This is also a form of retaliation.

I always advise them to file an
I-60 first - they get some type of response within a day or two, whereas the state has 40 days in which to return a grievance. The offender has 15 days from the date of the incident in which to file a grievance, so the I-60s that were mentioned are not always a bad thing if the offender is wanting a rapid response.

My experience shows that there are good and bad people out there no matter what they are wearing.

Anonymous said...

I can also speak from experience. I have seen bosses retaliate because of grievances filed on them. However I have also seen offenders retaliate against bosses for cases. For example week before last the boss I was working with wrote an offender up for a dayroom rule violation.The offender told her if she did not drop the case he would get us both in trouble.Because he owed me for writing a bogus case.Which was a good case! At chow time he tells the sargarent that I tore up his photos. His celly told the sargent that he had seen the offender tear up his own pictures.Just to screw with me.As for power games I tell all new boots that I train if their self esteem is so low that they have to mess over inmates, then they donot need to be working for TDCJ.