Team One begins this piece by offering our sincere condolences to the family of Mr. Bice and the families of all victims of state negligence and indifference. #PrisonLivesMatter
It was only months ago when the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner issued a statement, noting that prolonged solitary confinement amounts to psychological torture. Be that as it may, that exact form of torture is widely practiced and accepted as the norm in the self-ordained “land of the free”. Solitary confinement in excess of 14 days has been deemed “prolonged” by the UN.
Prisoncrats in the state of Texas falsely assert that they do not hold prisoners in solitary confinement. They make this false claim by not counting their restrictive housing ad-seg populations as solitary. However, such a practice is contrary to UN definitions on exactly what constitutes solitary. The United Nations deems solitary as any confinement where the prisoner is held in isolation for twenty-three hours or more hours a day. As of August 2019, Texas held over 6,500 people under such conditions, illegal conditions, we might add. More than 3,000 of those 6,500+ had been in isolation over a year. More than 650 had been in solitary for a decade or more and 145 had been isolated more than two decades. Because of this clear and continued arrogant disregard for human sanctity we say Governor Greg Abbott, TDCJ director Brian Collier, Allred Unit’s Warden Jimmy Smith and Psych. Staff member Mrs. Cherry are guilty of criminally neglegent homocide for the January 18, 2021 “suicide” of the Allred restrictive housing (RHU) solitary prisoner whom the writers only know by the surname ‘Bice’. We say that the above mentioned perpetrators should be judged by a ‘poor people’s court’, consisting of families who’ve been ravaged and victimized by the genocidal insitution that is prison. If found guilty, the punishment shall be the abolition of the TDCJ institution. We call this justice.
On January 19, a corrections officer McGraw, who found Bice unresponsive, reported to one of the writers that on the day in question, “I escorted Mrs. Cherry to Bice’s door. I heard him tell her three times that he was feeling suicidal. I later learned that he had a history of self-mutilation and suicide attempts. Mrs. Cherry had that information in her file for the inmate, but she still ignored him. She walked away. I did my rounds every 30 minutes, and on one of them I saw his feet peeking on the opposite side of the toilet. I asked was he okay. When he didn’t respond I called it in, but it was too late.”
As we write this piece on February 2nd, Mrs. Cherry is still on duty, a paid representative of the State of Texas and the institutionalized genocide of working class people that is prison.
It is important here to illustrate the conditions which tragically led to Mr. Bice’s death. As stated in TDCJ’s own “restrictive housing plan”, “offenders in extended restrictive housing may develop symptoms of acute anxiety or other mental issues”. Therefore, TDCJ brass clearly understands that the basic conditions of this isolated confinement damages human beings, yet they do not care. We say again – #PrisonLivesMatter!
From late December until January 31st the entire Allred Unit was on a “Covid 19 lockdown”. As we scribe this, captives in general population remain on lockdown, while restrictive housing has been let up. This is in response to Mr. Bice’s death. However, the public should know that the initial lockdown of RHU captives was arbitrary and unnecessary, as pods without any positive tests at all were locked down for over a month. Take into account the fact that we, RHU captives, are already “locked down” not only physcially but intellectually as well. Let’s illustrate further.
TDCJ defies state law, Tx.Gov.Code 501.009, by refusing to allow all inmates the opportunity to take part in mentally/intellectually stimulating programming, which would undoubtedly mitigate some of the pent up “anxiety and other mental issues”. The above government code mandates life skills, job skills, literacy and education classes, parenting, drug rehab, and religious courses for all TDCJ inmates. Of course this law is not being practiced, as RHU prisoners are routinely discriminated against for their/our social and/or political convictions.
Let’s also take into account that RHU prisoners are allowed only minimal phone time – 5 minutes weekly. This minimal amount was only made possible as a concession from the administration in response to a Team One instigated mass hunger strike in July 2020. Although TDCJ has approved both video visitation and prisoner friendly tablets as ways to further exploit the monopoly they have on their captives lives, RHU prisoners are not allowed access to these communication avenues, thereby further exasperating the psychological and emotional anguish that is solitary confinement (RHU) in general, not to mention during a pandemic.
So Mr. Bice, like over 6,500 others held captive in TDCJ’s torture chambers, was left isolated physically, ex-communicated, and intellectually unstimulated. On January 18th he like others on Allred Unit seg/RHU/solitary was held on an arbitrary medical lockdown where out of cell time was non-existent, besides the occasional shower.
Couple these conditions with the unprofessional and incompetent psych/medical staff and it is no wonder that suicides and suicide attempts have been constantly on the rise in recent years. A close look of Mrs. Cherry’s inaction is necessary.
On each RHU pod the admin has designated cell #7 as a “psych cell”. This means that when psych staff such as Mrs. Cherry come around conducting “evaluations” the prisoners in question are to be escorted by security staff to cell #7, where Mrs. Cherry or other psych staff can conduct interviews and evaluations while allowing the prisoner the necessary privacy.
The problem is that this is never practiced. Staff are too lazy, or in their own words “too busy”, to do these escorts. On Janary 18th laziness and incompetence is the only “excuse”, as all Allred inmates were on lockdown and the only activity security staff had to partake in daily for over a month was the serving of food trays.
So here it is, that even if Mr. Bice did not mention feeling suicidal he should have been escorted out of cell and more thoroughly evaluated, per policy.
Furthermore, upon him mentioning suicidal thoughts, Mrs. Cherry was obligated to insure that Mr. Bice was placed on suicide watch, per policy, where in every 24 hours he would’ve undergone subsequent evaluations until his suicidal feelings subsided.
Instead of taking these common sense steps, according to security staff member McGraw, Mrs. Cherry just “walked away”. Again, we say #PrisonLivesMatter!
In closing, We, Texas Team One, a collective of abolitionist and human rights activists ask that the public demand that Mrs. Cherry, Jimmy Smith, Brian Collier and Greg Abbott be held responsible for this preventable death. Further, we say that if the lives of those imprisoned by the state have no value, our families, communities and supporters on the outs should join in on helping us. #FreeEmAll!