Most people don’t quite relate the causes and effects of prison violence to corruption within its oversight.
The meaning of “prison violence” is often skewed by mainstream corporate media giants, so that when it’s referenced in the public domain, a false image and fear has been distilled into the minds and hearts of Americans that will never step foot into a prison compound, and in the ones that will, that image arrives before they do.
Savages assaulting and raping each other; bloody riots; unjust killings of innocent guards and staff; and any- and everything corresponding, defines the term. But in reality: thugs lacking morals, empathy, self-respect, and/or respect for those around them and in society, is only a microcosm of in-prison violence on a day-to-day basis. The term is a hydra that’s far further reaching.
We can thank government-sponsored television programming for the false images cast on America’s prisons.
Shows like HBO’s “Oz”, which depicted a fictitious prison called Emerald City, as being one where rape, violence, and homosexual activity (whether forced or consensual) was the norm, overlooked by the few guards there. Then there’s the movie “Con Air”, that had violent federal prisoners hijacking an airplane that was being used to transfer them from one prison to the next.
You also have American Me; Blood In Blood Out; Penitentiary and whatnot, all conveying the same false reality that prisons are extremely violent and out of the control of guards working in them, who are in fear themselves.
Even newly-hired guards hold this animus, often strutting around the compound their first few weeks on the job, with attitude and a no-nonsense facade, and cultural bias. An image that quickly diminishes when these “crazed madmen” prove to be just like them, or were incarcerated for petty offenses, due to economical disadvantages. But there are still those few prisoners who meet the status quo image of sexual depravity and psychopathy, yet they are few and far between.
Most guards adapt and become “institutionalized” themselves in a matter of months, i.e. talking in prison code and slang; adopting the eating habits and recipes of prisoners, etc. In one rare instance I observed a white guard inquire on how to be recruited into a white supremacist prison gang. McFarland was fired for unprovoked assaults on Black prisoners.
As one guard, Skyler Tidwell, told me in 2015 during my seven-year stay in administrative segregation (solitary confinement), “the only difference between me and y’all is y’all got caught.” Months later, a rumor spread that he was arrested for attempting to rob a convenience store.
I’ve even witnessed the occasional newly arrived guard or staffer whose only purpose for working at the prison was to prey on any prisoner who had access to cash or funds on the outside. In exchange, the prisoner can get sexual favours, contraband like buck knives, drugs, cellphones and possibly more.
The above-mentioned hands-on examples were during my stay at the Clements Unit in Amarillo, Texas, spanning 2009-2017.
The clarify, the term prison violence can extend to any activity or series of activities in a prison setting that perpetually compromises the life and/or safety of those within its confines. But more often than not, it is only associated with the aggressive actions and behaviors of prisoners. Ultimately granting the (sometimes unprovoked) hostile behavior of rogue guards immunity.
This makes it nearly impossible for a prisoner to be documented as a victim in staff-initiated assaults, since the scope of its reach wasn’t designed to stretch beyond the actions and expressions of a prisoner and into the cesspool of guard misconduct. So long as a guard alleges that he was hit first and used “the minimum amount of force necessary to gain compliance”, the burden shifts to the prisoner, who now has a trumped-up staff assault disciplinary infraction, coupled with injuries and sometimes the destruction of their personal property. Prison violence in its purest form!
In order to get a general understanding of the causes and effects of prison violence, and why violence in prison will remain intact, one has to look beyond the propagation devices imposed by penologists and researched studies, and use critical thinking.
The former tools only implant a bias in people who will support reform, or allow the decadence of a flawed penal system, merely based on what the expert said, just because the expert said so, per se. In such an event, wardens and other bureaucratic employees are interviewed, documents are viewed for statistical analysis – such as cherry-picked use of force reports – and the findings are produced. In no way will guard misconduct reports be used in determining the level of violence in a prison, as opposed to misconduct reports written on the prisoners for the violence they may, or may not have inflicted.
Prisoners aren’t immune from this bias, as they are the subjects of the matter and have the most to worry about, since pride, psychological trickery, self-confidence, size, criminal charges and social status determine who are the victims, and how violent their world is, not a scholar writing their thesis.
For instance, a black prisoner who is 6’5, 250 lb, talks with an urban dialect and has social status within his clique has little to worry about compared to a white prisoner who is small, diminutive, speaks with a proper tone, has never been to prison before and was raised in the suburbs.
Those on the outside looking in have already succumbed to the psychological trickery, since pride, self-confidence, size, criminal charges and social status have given the black prisoner a predatory advantage over the white prisoner.
Thus, within the black prisoner’s clique, it is already “overstood” that in the event the white prisoner tries to “stud up” (stand up for himself), he will get “maxed out”, meaning beaten to a bloody pulp.
In short, a group of over-confident predators are created through a meeting of the minds; hollering ballyhoos and demanding respect, when their lifestyles are everything but respectable.
In the event the white prisoner happens to be a black belt or knows some other advanced combat technique, beats the black belt to the ground and challenges one of the other individuals, their collective confidence individually disappears and confusion spreads among the group – making them prone to being victimized by observers themselves.
Their social status is lost and will never be regained, forcing them to spend their entire prison term engaging in random acts of violence (against hand-picked victims) in an effort to redeem the unredeemable – to turn back in time.
On the other hand, another element exists within the prison setting that is a key contributor to the causes and effects of prison violence – corruption within the hierarchy.
Unlike many other prison spoofs that give the guard a role limited to that of a blind bystander or naif, e.g. sleeping with the keys hanging on a hook by the cell door; allowing a birthday cake to be brought to an inmate with a hacksaw baked into it, etc, inside the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), where I have spent over 12 years as Offender #1532092, there aren’t too many things that slip past the knowledge of guards and staff; besides the abusive treatment imposed on the prisoners by their co-workers and, in many respects the fights between prisoners that are set up by staff themselves.
To believe otherwise is to suggest that a guard who’s put in over 20 years of service, who has never written a report fingering the foul acts of a co-worker during the (off-camera) beating of a prisoner phase of “use of force”, has never seen it happen or participated in it.
In fact, it is within the chain of command where such acts are condoned, promoted, and sometimes enforced. The Warden, Major, Captain, Lieutenant, all the way down to the portable camera operator, have a role in investigating and documenting a use of force. And whether the investigation is handled with integrity, depends on whether the amount of force applied was needed, or solely for the wanton infliction to cause pain or death.
During a use of force, the responding portable camera operator is usually a female, who’s already been given preferential treatment from the shift supervisor, who’s broadly known as being a foul actor. The treatment includes job duties requiring little to no contact with the harsh conditions the operator is responding to. Most of their time is spent around the supervisor doing nothing.
Likewise, the camera operator forms an inclination to record activities in the light
most favorable to his/her co-workers. It isn’t unusual for a cell extraction team, consisting of five guards dressed in armor, to beat a prisoner, (while falsely yelling “stop resisting!”) while the camera operator only records the wall or the ground; shaking and twisting the camera so that the backs of the guards are all that’s of value. And if something key is accidentally captured, the footage is exploited or overlooked.
Having female camera operators also gives staff the ability to conduct key parts of the use of force with the camera turned off, under the banner that to do otherwise would infringe the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). Like the viewing of injuries, or the denial of viewing them, further beatings and threats of retaliation get buried in the unknown annals of TDCJ’s sordid history. A history only known to those trusted to uphold the law and “correct” those being left to fend for themselves in their care.
“I remained on F-Wing to speak with the offender and explain that the strip search [following my beating] would occur off camera, by a male officer… I stated that this was to prevent any females from viewing the offender in a state of undress,” said Sergeant Sirena White in a use of force report, where I was assaulted by known racist guards: Brandon K. Pollock, Zachary H. Williford, and others, in the Ellis Unit (cameraless) hallway; as black guard Sylvester Glaze Jr. watched, Nov 23 2018.
In reality, it was an unprovoked assault, in a place where all uses of force, in response to “staff assaults” just happen to occur on the night shift. Yet, no effort has been made to install hallway cameras, since the only thing it will prevent is the advancement of assaults on prisoners, and trumped-up staff disciplinary cases.
So in this instance, staff can no longer rely on the statements of co-workers to enforce bogus staff assaults, while doubling back to the same report to counter any complaint made by a prisoner that he was the one assaulted. “At no time did I witness any officers strike offender Walker,” Williford falsely documented in his witness statement. “I went to assist when I saw offender Walker, Jason #1532092 struck [sic] Officer Pollock in the facial area”, Officer Brian Rivas (one of the assaulters) made up in his report.
Little did Williford know, Pollock filled out a report admitting to punching me five times in the face and stomach, while pinning me with a bogus staff assault disciplinary. Little did Pollock know, Williford didn’t get the memo about the bogus staff assault, and would’ve kept his code of silence had Pollock not admitted to assaulting me.
Williford, Pollock, Glaze Jr and disciplinary hearing officer Michael Hill, have since been removed from TDCJ as employees for their roles in the cover-up. A Federal civil rights law suit was filed, and those interested in the outcome see: Jason Renard Walker vs Brandon K. Pollock et al Cause #H-19-4829. The bogus disciplinary was overturned on the step 2 appeal after Ellis Unit warden, Christopher Lacox, tried to uphold it on the initial appeal.
The same warden that attempted to cover up me being injured and assaulted, but failed because Pollock incriminated himself.
Acts like these are sustainable because the world inside prison is a hidden one, concealed behind walls and barb wire fences, inaccessible to the public and sometimes media.
A lot more goes on inside prison besides the false belief that we sit around all day causing problems, lifting weights, preying on the weak and doing “gang stuff”.
There is actually a black market, or economy, where thousands of dollars are made a day through the introduction and sale of drugs, cell phones, weapons and prostitution. With the former and the latter comes gang territory, competition between rivals, robbery and violence.
For one chapstick cap of methamphetamines, the buyer will pay anywhere between $150-$200, depending on a number of factors. A piece of paper the size of an identification card and saturated in liquid K2 goes for $100. A 16 oz size water bottle of homemade liquor runs $300 a piece. A “night in the boom boom room” (sex with a female guard) costs $100 a session. One $20 pre-paid Tracfone costs anywhere from $800-$1,500 depending on availability. Renting one is $50 an hour, etc.
So it’s quite obvious that there’s an interest to not only stave off other competitors, but protect the staff that smuggles the contraband in. In return, the staffer will relay confidential information and documents to their business associate. Documents like incoming and outgoing letters from prisoners to gang intelligence staff; incoming processed grievances that a prisoner sent complaining about their safety and anything that will profile the dealer about the prisoners around him.
It’s also not unusual for a guard to know who the sellers are, relay false information about a prisoner they don’t like to them, and sit back as the accused is attacked for snitching. I’ve personally witnessed several prisoners get severely beaten based on the word of Clements Unit staff, Captain Crystal Turner and Sergeant Crystal Rust, for supposedly getting hidden drugs confiscated. Drug-addicted prisoners lacking funds also have an inclination to raise false allegations to a dealer, then accept a drug payout to attack the innocent prisoner.
The economic structure within prison is a cesspool for violence in itself, as guards involved get an average payment of $5000 each time they bring something in; prisoners involved can use their status for intimidation and control purposes; prisoners buying can feed their drug addiction. So any- and everything that threatens this is weeded out by any means necessary, with little regards to the consequences that may or may not occur.
Early last year, a TDCJ statewide rule was created, designed to prevent the introduction of drugs and cellphones into the prison. Any prisoners being found to be in possession of drugs or cellphones now receive the following punishment: 180 days commissary restriction, 5 years on medium custody status (was 6 months) and criminal charges.
As absurd as this introduction prevention measure is, no rules have been implemented that curb staff’s ability to bring contraband in. All this measure does is round up prisoners engaged in drug ability and dump them off in the same cell block; increasing the level of violence, competition, and the amount of contraband available for sale, in a prison that already rivals drug sales in many ghettos across America.
Jason Renard Walker
200 Spur 113