(TDCJ Darrington Unit, Rosharon, Texas Dec. 23, 2020)
Z: Can you introduce yourself and give some background on you and your time at Dirty Darrington Concentration Camp of Texas Department of Minimal Justice? What is the atmosphere there?
GW: First and foremost, long live solidarity! And a special shoutout to all the brave men and women who unite for the greater good. OK, my name is Antonio Castro. “GW” is short for the town I fell out of near Corpus Christi. My friends jokingly call me “GQ”, you know, like the magazine with all those handsome men? But fuck all that. What’s important is what’s going on in the penitentiary right now, whether here in Texas or in the US of A in general. And what’s going on in here on Dirty Darrington is pretty fucked up.
From correctional officers murdering inmates by slamming them on their heads while in hand restraints to using food and commissary as a psychological tool to control the entire populace. Suicide rates are at an all time high while prison rehabilitation and prison reform are are at an all time low. Retaliation from correctional officers is the norm and extreme prison slave labor is considered part of doing time. As for me? Anarchy has always been at the forefront since my childhood, once I accepted that my thought process and critical thinking skills were deemed abnormal. I learned at an early age how to look outside the box of what children were taught and lectured. Many simply accepted what they saw and heard as truth. I, on the other hand, wasn’t trying to see or hear shit. I wanted to find out these truths for myself. I dare to say history will show that any system is easily threatened by originality.
I understood from my father and mother that if you want something you have to work for it. So coming from a working class Hispanic family, manual labor came pretty natural for me. That goes without saying that the extreme prison slave labor Dirty Darrington offers is right up my alley. Within the years of field squad I quickly rose through the ranks of individuals who were actually hard workers. It got to the point where I was always constantly being singled out to the “striker” position for the more advanced extracurricular activities. My dumbass thought I was being slick, manipulating the system to be in better position, never realizing the whole time the system was manipulating me!
Indeed, I was being placed in position, but it wasn’t for my benefit. No matter how my ego looked at it, I was working my dick off for a lost cause, lost in my thoughts, which is the exact mentality the capitalists want you to have in order to fill their pockets. However, working for free didn’t bother me like it did others. Because as I mentioned, I had an agenda. I was completely content with eating all of the free chemically-sprayed insect-shit dirt-covered vegetables I wanted! Can anybody say “donkey of the day”?
The high energy work ethic in which I operate was eventually recognized enough to grasp the attention of high ranking officials. My job was changed to Building Crew 1st Shift, which is directly under the Building Major’s supervision – Major Gooden, Mr. Sexual Harassment himself. This crew consisted of elite workers who are the best of the best. So it is safe to say I had fit the bill. I soon found that the workload was fucking brutal, working 12 hour shifts of straight up labor – the same hours I worked in the oil field in the free world.
A great example, and these are known facts, that the chapel had hosted for several years a ballot for the whole unit to vote on the work forces who worked the hardest that year. The Building Crew 1st Shift (there is no 2nd or 3rd shift crews, we were literally THE crew) has an undisputed record streak. I cannot stress enough how brutal the workload is that Major Gooden stacked on us, from every crack to every crevice, from up in the spline attics to the bottom basements, from every single line to all the outside buildings and inside tanks. This was a never ending rotation, and as elite workers we did our jobs, and we did it great. Every. Single. Fucking. Day. What did we get, you might ask? Nothing.
Since that answer sucks, allow me to elaborate. We had to wrestle for our food, our showers, our clothes. Constantly being stuck in count. When we finally made it to the line where we lived, we had to wrestle with the line officer to put us in our cell, and if the line officer was willing to comply, we had to wrestle with the damn picket officer who gets upset whenever you disturb their session of sitting on the stairs. We usually end up falling asleep in the dayroom because they simply don’t want to go out of their way to put us up in our 6×9 cells after another day of straight up slave labor.
We are forced to wait for the next “in an out” which, 9 times out of 10, they just did one right before we got on the line! No extra food, no special treatment, just a sarcastic “Keep up the good work fellas” (wink, wink). When the Governor or someone “special” visits the unit the Building Crew worked inhumane hours. From 6am-6pm to 10pm-3am to 6am-6pm to 10pm-3am. Back to fucking back. All for what? Someone who doesn’t even walk 20 yards inside the unit and back treads outside again? “Keep up the good work” (wink, wink).
The same goes for free-world volunteer events and all that extra bullshit they try to sell to the public’s eye. The Building Crew is the driving force behind the units over-all cleaning and appearance. Sadly, Major Gooden realized the threat my presence strongly vibrates outwards and successfully set me up with constant harassment tactics, which ultimately led to my G-5 closed custody status. But God Bless all those men’s hearts who still are on the crew, for I personally know their struggle. I am fortunate enough to have gained the experience of being in such a powerful position.
The movement, the possibilities, it was intoxicating. I’m one of a handful who actually know the entire layout of the whole unit, inside and out. I’ve climbed the ladder and have seen the top. As glorious as it all may seem, the simple truth is that it’s all an illusion. You’re not working the system. The system is working you, free of charge. Then Covid-19 came and changed the whole fucking world.
Z: What are the conditions like in the prison as a whole? What is it like in Ad. Seg. (administrative segregation) areas?
GW: To be honest with you, and despite what people might think, the conditions here on Dirty Darrington is pretty pathetic. As I have previously mentioned earlier, the workers on Darrington are being taken advantage of through slave labor, and not only in one department but in all departments, lacking the proper materials and equipment in this era. Especially now with the post-Covid 19 safety guidelines.
I was in the oil field, working through 5 years of experience. Needless to say I’m OSHA Standard Operations & Safety Guidelines Certified from the free world. So it was through my urging that Darrington’s work forces employ the use of lanyards and harnesses for anything over 6 feet being used. Ladder safety training, the proper use of tools. Simple procedures are being ignored. Sure, they have an OSHA safety video, but no one in any department handling tools and power drills seen this video. Only people who have signed up for a class have seen this video. I should know, as my department is directly linked with all the others who work with tools. Nobody really knew besides a handful of people how to operate heavy machinery such as the scissor lift. I had to train individuals on the proper use of such equipment when it’s the units responsibility, not mine.
Officials drew the line on me when I urged the use of hard hats, stating I was “doing too much”. Can they not see the importance of these safety measures? Darrington owns all this equipment but simply refuses to let workers use them, such as the use of these weak plastic gloves for jobs that require the proper hand protection. The tools are not being sanitized or wiped down clean. Neither are the equipment and machinery. Sanitation is being neglected in all work departments.
While living conditions for the general population is being overlooked, I thought they shook the spoon in the kitchen. But these weak-ass excuses for bleach cups is not enough to clean one bunk, let alone a whole cell. The heaters don’t work so they try to pass out these extra blankets that are torn up with holes in them. The windows are broken out, allowing cold air to flow through and for rain to pour in on different lines, ultimately flooding out those who live on 1 Row, while outside buildings such as the dorms and trustee camps don’t have the proper insulation installed for the inmates to stay warm during these cold nights, or vice versa where the extreme Texas heat is literally cooking the inmates to death who live inside those buildings.
As for the inside tanks? It’s impossible for those men to social distance, as well as clean the whole area with the little cleaning supplies issued to every inmate. The pests are a primary concern for the men who live in the outside buildings, where fire ants build their nests inside the aluminum walls, infesting and intruding their commissary inside the floor lockers, all in vain attempts to protect their property. For the trustees who work the chicken coops and pig pens, I feel truly sorry for these men. There is no real attempt to protect them. It’s as if there is no such thing as Covid-19 out in the world as well as in here. It’s terrible.
The chicken coops are so disgusting the men on this unit have either decided to stop eating chicken entirely and/or stop eating eggs entirely, not implying that we eat these chickens, but it is enough to lose ones appetite for chicken completely. While the dog kennels, horse trainers, tractor drivers are all not being property taken care of, who are forced to carry out their workload despite Covid-19 safety regulations. The total amount of property in acres is fucking huge on Darrington. Can anybody say “Plantation”?, leaving significant exposure to Covid-19 and the potential spread of the virus.
Speaking of such topics, Darrington is currently housing inmates from other units inside the building gymnasium for quarantine purposes. While the chapel is being used to test as minimum inmates as possible for Covid-19, which seems productive you might say. But what about the inmates who are housed here? Is the administration agreeing with outside agencies to place its own population at risk? All of the lines are going on quarantine lockdowns on separate occasions. Due to the fact that these transit inmates are the cause of this shit spreading. Where’s the logic in all this? Darrington is counter-productive, which is doing a poor job on containing the virus, clawing at every vain attempt to save face.
The kitchen also is a factor in spreading Covid-19. Supervisors are not employing proper guidelines in the preparation of the food in Ad. Seg areas or in general population. With the constant movement of kitchen workers to Ad. Seg lines, hands should be washed and sanitized on the regular, which they are not. The sink in the seg dayroom where the food is prepared is never used. Maybe it’s because that shit doesn’t even work? Afterwords the food just sits in the tray carrier where the roaches love to roam. The infestation is beyond out of control. The roaches are bold and fearless, truly a different breed. You can say, like us inmates, they are a product of their environment.
Don’t get me started on the showers. In population the social distancing rule is ignored while the overcrowded shower area is a show of wet dick racing to surround a basketball-like pole with five shower heads before all the available spots are taken up. Everyone is so close together surrounding this pole that the men could literally link each others arms around their neighbors shoulders in a football huddle-like fashion, with 12 poles and 5 heads on each. Plus, the extra men waiting on the side for their turn, a complete violation against this era of social distancing. Ad seg showers are no better, super filthy and unsanitary, with no lights on the inside. Have you ever showered in pitch black? It’s crazy. Science will prove that mold and mildew grow in dark, humid environments, which is probably why the showers smell like shit.
The random power outages are of no help either. It always seems to happen every time it’s Ad seg’s turn to go to commissary. Coincidence? Maybe, but unlikely. Our commissary day is postponed on a constant basis, often being screwed over when we randomly go on a bullshit lockdown? Maybe, but very unlikely.
Z: What are the accommodations for people with dietary restrictions?
GW: I don’t know too much about dietary and all that. I have a fast metabolism and love to eat as much as possible, so I try to stay far away from those types of trays. I do need to do more research into this matter, but from what I’ve seen they practically starve these dudes. Is that part of the diet plan? To starve? That’s a sure way to lose weight. The serving sizes are so small that I wouldn’t dare feed a child that tray, let alone a grown ass man. I see they serve pork sometimes to dietary inmates. Is pork even considered diet? If inmates are pork-free the kitchen just serves the dietary inmate up a mountain of these nasty ass sour carrots they’ve been feeding us lately. Which company is contracting TDCJ these sour ass carrots by the way? TDCJ needs to fire and sue those bastards. It’s no wonder TDCJ serves these sour ass carrots to prisoners, because nobody in the whole world is eating this shit. Pickled carrots? Worst. Idea. Ever. As for the dietary inmates, I feel sorry for those dudes. It’s a daily struggle for dietaries in Ad seg areas. Inmates have to flood, burn fires, tie the run down, all types of ideas to simply get their food. The general population is usually fed by 5 or so, while the dietary inmates have to wait well into the night to be served their food. I guess starvation is proving to be an effective weight-loss/medical strategy.
Z: How can people on the outside try to support you all in trying to make conditions better on the inside?
GW: Well, a great place to start is by pushing for the installations of virtual visitations on the unit as well as the installations of phones on the seg lines and closed custody dayrooms so that inmates all have access to family members on their approved visitation lists. This is not working in the new era of Covid-19. We need access to our families and friends just like population does, as well as access to our attorneys too. Continual contact with loved ones is vital to the mental and physical health of the general population on seg lines. Stress levels are at extreme heights, which leads to anger, frustration, anxiety and ultimately suicide. Inmates are literally killing themselves over the negligence of love from our families and friends.
We get one free phone call for 5 minutes every once in a blue moon, weeks or months apart, while population is struggling with the outdated phone systems in the dayroom. The speaker that receives the voice never works, resulting in inmates beating the phone handset against the wall repeatedly or by them blowing air into the receiver with their mouths, which is highly unsanitary and a huge risk in spreading Covid-19. A unit-wide Covid-19 testing should also help on containing and recognizing infected individuals as it did before on recent tests. It is also the time to help end prison slave labor by uniting now!
Individuals are constantly taking penitentiary chances by the participation of contraband and hustles that are described as such, all because of the need for survival, all because the capitalist doesn’t care about our struggle. We are all human beings at the end of the day and we need financial help and love from families as much as the next person. Those of us who have no one to write or no one to call grind to get everything out of the mud while others are dependent on an administration who doesn’t give two fucks about whose indigent.
We need financial relief from the state. We need an outlet such as virtual visitations and phone systems and Covid-19 relief through another round of a unit wide testing. People must understand that a 2 year sentence is the same as a death sentence in prison, because nobody is promised to leave out of here alive. This prison shit isn’t just on TV shows and movies. This shit is real life. We are all human beings at the end of the day, no matter what cards we were dealt or how we decided to lay them out. We’ve made some mistakes, but just give us a break to see the changes that we’ve made also. The last thing we need is for anyone to gather up our past just to throw it back in our face. United we stand and divided we fall. Raising awareness about prison slave labor and the need for love from family and friends is as important as the overall safety to everyone. Parole guidelines and prison reform is a must!
Z: Why are prisoners mail getting withheld by Ms. Ford and by Administration? Is there someone to call? What would you like people to say? Send mail?
GW: This issue has been a constant problem for inmates pre and post Covid-19. While Ms. Ford and the administration loves to cite strategic procedures such as gang files, contraband or the new “BPO3.91” measures for greeting cards, what’s really going on is much more than that. It has to do with personal retaliation tactics that attacks certain individuals whose character is simply disliked. This process is followed through a chain of command like structure. From Warden to G.I.s, from ranking officials to regular ass C.O.s, whatever it is you have going on they’ll be sure to sabotage all efforts.
Whether its medical, educational or simply personal mail you are subject to sabotage. You causing trouble or simply outspoken? Yeah, they’re gonna hold your mail if they know you receive it on a regular to purposely have you trip out and get your ass thrown in the hole. This goes well beyond the mail department into simple daily actions, such as lay ins, rec, chow, showers. All this is subject to sabotage. But to remain relevant I’ll stick to the question at hand.
As for Ms. Ford, I’ve seen her hand out greeting cards to certain individuals while others are denied. The same for magazines, books, all types of shit. All this picking and choosing who gets what and who doesn’t is bullshit. If you don’t like someone I’d respect you more if you just said, “Hey, I don’t fucking like you”, instead of acting out in this childlike behavior. I would say to call 911, which is something I’ve never said before, but their ass is involved in this shit too (aka the OIGs and Gis). A great place to call is someone outside the TDCJ agencies such as city council members and Texas senators to let them know the corruption going on within the mail departments. If you’re going to try to send mail to test the waters, go ahead and send it to me and I’ll let you know if I get it or not, because at this point I’m subject to sabotage and retaliation. (Laughs)
Z: There is a tendency in prison abolition and anarchist projects to focus on political prisoners, often neglecting other prisoners in the process. Would you appreciate support from these groups? What could they do to help?
GW: If there is such a tendency in these organizations, it is completely understandable for them to aim at individuals whose efforts will maximize the impact on the body as a hole. As the old saying goes, “It is better to shoot for the stars and hit a stump than to shoot at a stump and miss”. So with that being said, I’m sure the other prisoners are not truly being neglected. As it’s a universities job to hire the professors, in turn it’s the professors job to teach the students or pupil. Now, if there is no professor to be found, the next best thing is to plant seeds through direct action, such as target a specific region and select multiple inmates through the TDCJ website to flood them with useful information that will eventually grasp the attention of a potential pupil for mentorship.
That pupil will eventually become a self made professor in the art of abolition and anarchy, who will groom their own pupils for the overall body of solidarity. One must completely be dedicated to the greater good at all costs because it’s not truly what the union can do for you, but what you can do for the union. One must be selfless, encouraging and above all ambitious. Be a trend setter. Teach yourself to spot overlooked opportunities.
These support groups can lead you to water all day long, but it is your hands that form the cup to drink from the fountain of knowledge. So the real question is: Just how thirsty are you? I’m fucking parched. Straight cotton mouth. Anything from information packets, zines, literature that will help me help others on this journey to liberation, to freedom. We are all not alone. A recent epiphany helped me open my eyes to this truth. As the famous lyrics from Rage Against The Machine says, “Some of those who work forces are the same that burn crosses”. Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!
Z: Is there anything else you would like to add?
GW: I want to thank you for allowing me to shine a light on how fucked up the system is through my own personal experiences. I’m only one out of the millions who are incarcerated who know these truths as well. My heart goes out to all of you men and women in prison, for this shit is truly hell on earth. A special shoutout to all the freedom fighters. You are all amazing. I need not mention all your names. You know who you are. And who can forget all of the free world people who take time out of their day to care for someone who is deemed worthless. You are all fucking awesome. And to Bunnie. I love you girl. I haven’t forgot about you. Tell Cal I said hello. As always, stay safe and stay beautiful. Be sure to leave encouraging messages on Facebook for firstname.lastname@example.org to Tony Castro. I’m here to stand in solidarity, to raise awareness, to stick it to the fucking man however I can, whenever I can. United we stand, divided we fall. Long live liberation.
Comrade GW can be reached at:
Antonio Castro 1972980
59 Darrington Road
Rosharon, Texas 77583