Saturday, October 14, 2017

How's the weather?

Two recent weather related stories deserve Grits readers attention: The Marshall Project this week offered excellent coverage of Texas' prison heat litigation in a joint project with the Weather Channel, while The Nation covered the issue of prisoners stranded during the recent Hurricane Harvey floods.

Guard tower at TDCJ prison in Rosharon Nation/AP
We knew that federal prisoners in Beaumont had lived through flooded conditions. But notably, The Nation story alleged that TDCJ prisoners at the Gist, LeBlanc, and Stiles Units were subjected to extreme conditions: "Water in some cells was knee-high, and toilets were overflowing with feces and urine. Inmates described suffering from heat, dehydration, hunger, mold, and being unable to communicate with anxious family members on the outside." Grits had not previously seen flooding reports from those units and, during our last podcast, had credited TDCJ for moving prisoners in other units which flooded. But the second wave of flooding around Beaumont/Port Arthur may have caught them off guard.

National Lawyers Guild attorneys suing over the conditions say reports from nearly 100 inmates corroborated the allegations, but TDCJ categorically denied them, declaring that "Stiles did not flood, and the inmates in all three TDCJ units were given sufficient water, food, and access to toilets." So there's some fact finding to be done. TDCJ inmates don't have access to email like in federal prisons, so it's more difficult for their stories to get out.

Declared one of the NLG attorneys, "We know these storms are going to become more and more frequent. If the plan is that every time there is a severe weather event people just don’t get food and water for a few weeks, and live in cages with their own excrement, that’s not an okay plan.”

1 comment:

Steven Michael Seys said...

It's standard operating procedure for TDCJ to deny facts and cover up faults rather than admit to being human and getting caught flat-footed by mother nature. The primary reason they limit prisoners' ability to communicate with the outside is to protect the false impression of perfection they are wrapping themselves in. If any organization were to peel back that illusion, they would discover more layers of cover-up than an onion. It's high time for the TDCJ to be held accountable for their actions, and more so for their cover-ups.