Life on the Island: Connally Unit Guards Use Unsanitary Showers as Respite Areas – by Jason Renard Walker

7 August 2022

Administrative staff and ranking guards at the Connally Unit are allowing guards to use a dark unsanitary shower as a respite area for medium custody prisoners housing in 8 Building’s J-Pod, commonly known as “the island”.

On July 6 2022, during 1st shift, a Hispanic-looking male guard approached me and my cellmate. We were told the respite area is a trip to a dark, foul-smelling, cockroach-infested, pubic hair-laden shower.

We were told we’d be locked inside the small enclosure for 15 minutes, then placed inside of our cell, one at a time.

A request to, instead, sit in front of the day room fan was denied.The officer explained that sitting in front of the day room fan isn’t respite. That I do agree on.

Yet when I replied that the shower wasn’t either, he refused to comment, and refused to tell me his name. He had no name tag.

Since my arrival at Connally Unit, I haven’t seen any efforts by the 8 Building supervisors to have the showers cleaned. Nor have I seen any efforts by privileged special needs inmates (PSNI), who are allowed to do whatever they wish, to clean them.

Contrary to what I was told on July 6, sitting in the day room was the prison’s way of providing respite, but mainly to the PSNI. Most prisoners asking for respite never get it, and I’ve seen a pattern of guards letting out the same three or four cells, then denying the other prisoners on the section.

The one time I was allowed respite, it was only for 15 minutes in the dayroom, and during a time when the sun had gone down.

Likewise, they strategically run our two hours of day room time at 6:30 am, so that by the time the outside temperature rises, we are stuck in our hot cell the rest of the day.

All meals, medication, special mail pick ups, library requests, laundry etc, is delivered to us in the cell. Unlike the other medium custody I.D. units throughout TDCJ that give medium custody prisoners the liberty to walk and get these things themselves.

Essentially, the Connally Unit is seen throughout TDCJ as a disciplinary unit. Which has nothing to do with prisoners being violent or misbehaving.

Its penchant for overpunishing, disciplinary quotas, assaultive staff cover ups and things like the denial of respite, facilitates the status quo.

On July 24th, 2015, Deputy Director Robert Erison authorized a TDCJ statewide memo to all TDCJ wardens and regional directors, ordering all wardens to make air-conditioned respite areas available. This included posting notices explaining where these areas are located, and allowing staff and prisoners to use them as needed.

The TDCJ statewide policy called “Respite Training and Education”, in part says:

“-Inmates are allowed to access respite 24/7;

-Inmates do not need to be sick, injured or feeling bad to access respite, rather they may do so to cool down whenever they wish;

-To access respite, inmates can make the request to any correctional officer;

-If there are problems, ask to talk to a ranking correctional officer.”

I highly recommend that no prisoner reading this attempt to ask to talk to a ranking officer. First off, most have a rule that if they are called to resolve any issue, the prisoner gets a disciplinary case. Normally for threatening to assault staff, refusing to obey an order, or causing a disturbance.

Second, the responding ranking officer is usually the entity that gave the guard authorization to enforce the denial, and the one to encourage the bogus disciplinary.

Such a mutual reinforcement by ranking guards is an unfavorable dilemma to argue policy against. Especially when the ranking guard is falsely radioed that “an inmate is causing a disturbance” and he must press his bravado to tone down an otherwise hostile prisoner, even when it’s obvious the prisoner is calm and in need of help.

TDCJ’s tendency to avoid holding itself accountable, for obvious civil rights violations of prisoners, is one reason why conditions in Texas prisons are among the worst in the nation.

But in situations of this magnitude, responsibility should literally fall on the lap of Governor Greg Abott.

Instead of officials like the wardens, directors, etc identifying the problem and coming up with practical solutions to prevent future occurrences, they simply cover up the existence of the problem; retaliate against guards and prisoners who come forward; falsify state records to distance themselves from being held liable and dole out weak punishments to low-level guards, who were only following orders that these same officials were aware of and tolerant towards.

It’s what you call an exhibit of damage control and a last-ditch effort to preserve the customs and culture TDCJ has effectively built its pretext for integrity around. With the help of inmate pig proxy propagandists – TDCJ’s second self.

These are the inmates that assist the administration during the annual pre-warned surprise audits. They paint, clean, and are interviewed by the auditors who are supposed to pick random prisoners from various parts of the prison. These inmates are prepped by their “boss man” before the interview starts.

So, in situations concerning the accessibility of respite, bad feeding practices and the like, what’s really going on on the island, conveniently stays on the island.

And it’s understandable that these inmates are behaving like this to avoid retribution for complaining.

Prisoners that complain of assaultive staff, threats of violence, chest pains, heat exhaustion or any medical-related illness are subject to very invasive urine drug testing by handpicked predatory guards.

I was drug-tested three times, then finally put on strip cell status (empty cell with 24-hour guard observation) when the weird drug testing couldn’t stem my filing complaints. This region actually has an irrational policy allowing such foul play.

And guards never wear name tags, so as to prevent being identified in grievance complaints, with the tacit approval of numerous silent partners that supervise them and don’t wear name tags either.

Depending on what supervisors are in charge of 8 Building determines what type of respite policy will be enforced. But regardless of what policy it is, the average prisoner will only get around one shot a week, and during the night, when they are asleep or not needing to cool down.

Only the most dedicated bootlickers are allowed more than 15 minutes of respite (merely sitting in the un-airconditioned dayroom) during sun up. And they take this modern-day pat on the head in stride.

And in the event these inmates refuse to go in their cell because of the heat, guards will turn all in-cell power off in an effort to instigate race and gang riots. While leaving dayroom power on, when the dayroom is where the issue is at. While we lose access to use our fan for hours on end.

Meanwhile, other prisoners aren’t aware that the respite training and education memo exists; where the respite areas are located; that the memo is supposed to be posted in the day rooms and that they can receive respite in the A/C upon request.

The infirmary has a sitting area, listed as a respite area, just as 1 Building, 3 Building and 4 Builiding. Even 8 Building’s multi-purpose room is a valid respite area, as is the inmate barbershop. But the barbershop is used as a supervisor hangout, so no hair cuts. And the multipurpose room is used to make trays for meals. So the dining room we’re supposed to walk to is closed, just to keep us from having reason to leave our cell and the building.

And since this unit’s administration is illegally confining us to our cells for economic reasons, we can’t attend religious services or educational classes, where air conditioning exists. But like I already mentioned, this is the only I.D. unit in the state of Texas that has this lockdown status that no documented TDCJ policy supports.

According to their own policy, medium custody prisoners are afforded four hours of recreation per day. Two hours in the day room, two hours of outside recreation, plus educational and church services.

Contrary to this, the two hours of outside recreation is flat out hi-jacked without a scintilla of an excuse. And without any prisoner resistance. In reality, we are being punished as if we were in close custody (GS) two-man solitary. But even they have outside recreation.

Call for action

Readers, please contact the warden’s office today! Demand the rationale as to why prisoners in 8 Building, in general, and J-Pod 1 Section in particular, are being denied access to respite areas containing air conditioning.

Request that to remedy the denial (that I know will be ignored) medium custody prisoners be given dayroom time after 12:00pm. This allows them to have two hours away from the hot cells.

In the even you are told that issues like meal periods prevent this very modest proposal; gently remind them that inmates pass out lunch and dinner by themselves, and often pass the trays under the door by smashing the food with bare hands, then forcing it under, causing food to stick to the door.

If they assure you this is a lie, tell them they can see for themselves by reviewing the J-Pod Section 1 day room cameras during lunch and dinner on 8/5/22 and 8/7/22. They’ll see these inmates handle trash and never wash their hands before smashing food down. During this times, guards are up front enjoying the air conditioning.

The only reason inmates do this is to get everybody fed in a timely manner, otherwise guards will do it two hours after it’s ready to serve. Life on the island continues.

Dare to struggle, dare to win!
All power to the people

Jason Renard Walker #1532092
Connally Unit
899 FM 632
Kenedy, TX 78119

Published by mongoosedistro

"Contains material solely for the purpose of achieving breakdown of prison through disruption" -Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice mailroom

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