Thursday, May 07, 2020

TDCJ inmates on COVID lockdown now have access to phone service

Grits had earlier discussed how COVID lockdowns at TDCJ were keeping inmates from communicating with their families. Apparently phone access has been restored for these units. TDCJ has posted this on the COVID FAQ page on their website:
The Offender Telephone System (OTS) is now operating 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Offenders are being escorted to phones when they are available even after traditional hours. Each offender is receiving 2 free 15-minute calls a week which reset every Tuesday. Disciplinary restrictions have been suspended. Offenders who do not have access to the OTS are being escorted to hardline phones in the units to make calls.
This is excellent news. Given that roughly a third of TDCJ prisoners are presently on lockdown over the virus, with more than 21,000 on medical restrictions because they had contact with an infected person, limiting phone access was untenable and cruel. 

UPDATE: Our pal Keri Blakinger tells me she doesn't think this is true for all units. Will update when I learn more.

MORE: Blakinger spoke to TDCJ spokesman Jeremy Desel who told her the FAQ page was somewhat overstated. Here's what he told her:
"I won’t say all but most of the precautionary lockdown units are doing phone access in limited amounts while going to and from showers. So they found a way to manage that to give a five-minute phone call. It’s not logistically feasible every single unit. But the majority of units people are at least getting SOME phone calls."


Anonymous said...

Connally Unit has 4 phones for 150 inmates. This is unacceptable. With no visitations, inmates sometimes are unable to make a phone call because of the very, very long lines of inmates waiting to make a call. More telephones should be installed for that many inmates. TDCJ should be ashamed of themselves.

Unknown said...

my wife in woodman unit gatsvil talk to her 1 time 2 months and her dorm isn't even medecal restricted I call the prision I get same anser every time new case yesterday I'm afraid I may never hear my wie voice again someone please help

Anonymous said...

This is not the case with every Unit on Medical restrictions. They are only allowing calls in some of the units. The way I understand that it works is they are escorted when on the way to or from the showers and are allowed a 5 minute phone call. They were getting the free calls you mentioned when they were not locked down. My LO's unit is one that is not making any calls. He is in Terrell. Not one of the "lucky" units that gets a 5 minute phone call.

BB said...

Not so at Ramsey - they are currently in a 14 day lockdown - no calls and the previous 14 day lockdown no calls.

Anonymous said...

This is not the case at Beto Unit. They are supposed to get two 5 minute calls each day but it never happens for my husband. There have been days where I have not heard from him at all and when I do speak to him, he tells me it’s because they were skipped. We communicate by mail too but that’s become another issue. The inmates are picking up the outgoing mail and not the CO’s. My husband will send a letter out on Monday and usually I receive it by Wednesday. His letter that was picked up on last Monday and his letter that was picked up on last Wednesday both were delivered to me on the same day. I also just received my daily screenshot email from
USPS and I have another 3 letters coming from him today... this system is so messed up

Kris said...

Phone calls are still not allowed at the Ellis Unit. I have not spoken to my son in over a month.

Unknown said...

Pack One unit in Navasota is getting 5 min free each day rather than 15 min or at least that what is happening to my inmate relative. I'm happy to hear his voice and thank goodness we talk fast!