Many important lessons were taught by Hurricane Katrina, which demolished a large area along the gulf coast and killed more than one thousand people in Louisiana and Mississippi in the summer of 2005. Foremost was the importance of evacuation efforts to protect lives. Most government agencies have since improved their strategies to safeguard the lives of American citizens. However, when hurricanes approach, one agency has continued to show indifference for the health and safety of thousands of Texans. This trusted agency is the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
While Americans had only just begun to deal with the unfathomable destruction caused by Katrina, another tropical storm had formed. It was named Rita on September 18, 2005. It would soon develop into the fourth-most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded and the most intense tropical cyclone ever observed in the Gulf of Mexico. Rita would soon cause more than $10 billion in damage on the U.S. Gulf Coast, making it the ninth costliest Atlantic hurricane in history. Of course, no one could foresee such vast destruction or predict that it would claim 120 lives. But the media’s portrayal of Katrina’s wrath, still fresh in people’s minds, prompted many to take precautions.
On Tuesday, September 20, 2005, Rita became a Category 1 hurricane with 15 mph winds. The winds increased to 100 mph just four hours later, making it a Category 2 on the five step Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale. Rita had intensified rapidly as it entered the Gulf of Mexico where the warm water was one degree Fahrenheit above average. So President George W. Bush made a televised statement and strongly urged everyone in the path of Hurricane Rita to evacuate from the Texas Gulf Coast. The following day, Governor Rick Perry ordered a mandatory evacuation of all residents along the coast of Southeast Texas. This was two full days before Rita hit. Jefferson County Judge Carl Griffith also issued a mandatory evacuation order. These public officials had seen the havoc caused by Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and Mississippi just three weeks before. These leaders warned the populace of the incalculable dangers posed by this growing storm. In the direct path of Rita was the Mark W. Stiles Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, located just outside of Beaumont in Jefferson County. The senior warden of this prison, Joe Smith, heeded these warnings and promptly evacuated to Austin with his family. He left behind over three thousand inmates and more than one hundred fellow employees in the capable hands of fate. The lives of these sons, brothers, fathers, mothers, and daughters were uncaringly abandoned to fate.
The Mark W. Stiles Unit is a medical unit which houses many elderly, disabled, and chronically ill prisoners. It is one of many prisons located in the Beaumont area. Stiles has four main buildings which consist of three tiers of cell blocks. These buildings are constructed of prefabricated concrete walls. They are rated to withstand a Category 2 hurricane. The Stiles Unit also has two sheet metal enclosed dormitory buildings which house over three hundred inmates apiece. These dorms also house many inmates who require the use of walkers, wheelchairs, canes, or crutches. These dorms cannot withstand the 75-mile-per-hour winds of a Category 1 hurricane.
By 4 p.m. Wednesday, September 21, Rita had become a Category 5 storm as winds reached 165 mph. By 10 p.m., the winds reached their highest level of 180 mph (sustained for one minute). It had also reached its lowest pressure of 895 mbar (hPa) or 26.43 inHg. LT. Ccl. Warren Madden, a hurricane hunter and meteorologist for the Weather Channel, recorded a peak wind gust of 235 mph while flying in the eye of the storm. He said Rita was the strongest storm that he had ever been in. Rita’s intense winds destroyed or disabled several buoy-based weather stations in the Gulf. This roaring Category 5 storm of enormous size was headed straight for the Texas coast. Forecasters had predicted that a 15-20 foot storm surge would spill over levees and that rains up to 25 inches were possible. The original forecast had the storm making landfall on the west end of Galveston Island. In anticipation of Hurricane Rita’s arrival, Texas Governor Rick Perry recalled all emergency personnel including almost twelve-hundred Texas National Guard and eleven-hundred Texas State Guard members from Katrina recovery efforts. Several hundred Texas Game Wardens were recalled as well. The Federal Government responded by deploying 11 Disaster Medical Assistance Teams or mobile field hospitals across eastern Texas. All inpatients at the University Of Texas Medical Branch hospital in Galveston were evacuated to other regional hospitals. Four hundred of these patients were prisoners under the ward of the Texas Department of Corrections. These patients were transferred to the University of Texas Health Center at Tyler.
The largest evacuation in North American history was underway. The enormous number of people fleeing from the Houston area overwhelmed the evacuation routes. On Wednesday, September 21, I-45 North had become gridlocked. The next day Governor Perry and the Texas Department of Transportation implemented contraflow lane reversals on I-45 north to Dallas, on I-10 west to San Antonio, and on U.S. Highway 290 northwest to Austin. It was not until Friday that road congestion eased. Washington Post reporter Doug Struck spent that Friday in Beaumont. He reported, “Almost everyone has left town. Only a few police, fire, and rescue personnel are on the roads. It’s pretty quiet. The highways are more clear and moving. The authorities are urging anyone who is still here to go.” Yet the thousands of men incarcerated at Stiles could not leave.
Obviously the tremendous news coverage of Katrina’s aftermath had influenced the decisions of so many people to evacuate. This prevented much more carnage by nature’s fury. Yet, apparently, the lives of the convicts at Stiles were deemed unworthy of such consideration by the state officials. No effort was made to transfer them to other units further inland. However, on Friday morning, September 23, the inmates were finally moved from the flimsy dormitories. Bringing only their ID cards and sleeping mats, they were assigned to the two-man cells of the main buildings. Being the third or the fourth man, they were forced to bed down on the floor. This violated federal prison regulations which also prohibit the housing of prisoners in hallways and gymnasiums. They were locked down about midday.
The Stiles Unit is not a federally designated disaster relief center. Yet, its main buildings are more sturdy than those of two nearby prisons. So later that day, inmates from the Gist and LeBlanc Units were moved and bedded down on the ground level dayroom floors at Stiles. Since the Stiles Unit is less than ten miles from the bay known as Sabine Lake and only ten feet above sea level, this would not seem to be a safe haven from the immanent floodwaters of a massive Category 5 hurricane. Warden Bonnie Young of the LeBlanc Unit saw the deplorable conditions which her inmates were forced into. Consequently, the U.S. Marshals Service was called in to help. Using C-130 aircraft, they evacuated more than one thousand inmates to other prisons across Texas before and after the storm had passed. Nevertheless, none of the inmates assigned to the Stiles Unit were ever evacuated except for those few admitted to the infirmary. However, the T.D.C. web site and telephone operators told their worried family members that all inmates had been evacuated to the safety of other units.
As the storm approached, there was no movement or preparations being made on the Stiles Unit. Apparently, most of the guards and medical staff had fled for their lives. The leading winds of the roaring Category 5 storm reached Beaumont Friday night, September 23. The power went out at the Stiles Unit about 10 p.m. Then the water quit running. The eye of the storm hit just east of Beaumont in extreme southwestern Louisiana. Fortunately, the sustained windspeeds had dropped to 120 mph as it made landfall on Saturday, September 24, around 2 a.m. It was then a Category 3 hurricane, a slightly weaker storm at landfall than Katrina. Even if this information had been known to them, it would have been of no consolation to the trapped prisoners who feared for their lives. Abandoned by the system and left in the dark, many sought solace in prayer. The walls of the prison heaved inward and the steel bunks flexed several inches. The prisoners were forced to huddle together on the floor by the toilet. Fences and light poles were blown down. Plying debris filled the air. The roofs of the dorms were heavily damaged while smaller outbuildings were obliterated. The storm was furious but quickly passed. Yet, the human suffering had only just begun.
Beaumont had received 8.48 inches of rainfall. Before the punishing rains ended, the plumbing and drains at Stiles began to back up. Waste water literally spouted from the toilets on the ground floors like fountains. The buildings soon had several inches of water covering the ground floors. Human excrement floated around like flotsam. More than a dozen disabled people were forced to abandon their mats on the floor for the relative safety of their wheelchairs. They had to remain there for the next three days. The toilets in those cells were not handicapped accessible, but they would not flush anyway without water. The stench, along with the heat, made breathing almost unbearable. The contaminated floors stayed wet during those three long days. When officers did return, inmates were told to use their sheets and clothing to sop up the excrement.
Prior to the storm, no daily doses of medications were issued for inmates in advance. During the next four days no medications were ever dispensed. There was no medical personnel around to provide needed medications. No emergency care was available. No sick call requests were possible. Diabetic patients did not have insulin. Such gross negligence was nothing less than medical malpractice.
No inmate was allowed to bring their own food or water from the dorms to the “safety” of the buildings. The prisoners did not receive any food that Saturday but were given a single 6-oz. cup of water Saturday night. Sunday breakfast was a hard peanut butter sandwich, two spoiled boiled eggs, and a cup of water. When asked of Warden Smith later as to why the inmates were given spoiled eggs, his comment was, “You had to eat something!” Lunch was another stale peanut butter sandwich and a spoiled bologna sandwich. When inmates complained, the few guards that were there just walked away shaking their heads. Dehydration became a serious problem for the men in those hot cells as outside temperatures reached the upper 90’s and more than 100 degrees within the cells.
According to a Dallas Horning News report on Monday, September 26, the floodwaters had receded and Senator John Coryn visited Beaumont. He did not visit the Stiles Unit, but it is doubtful he even knew the men were still there. The article stated that the more than one hundred ten thousand residents of Beaumont were urged not to return home since water, power, and sewer services would not be restored for weeks. It can be assumed that prison officials had this information but still made no effort to relocate the more than three thousand prisoners of the Mack W. Stiles Unit. This callous disregard for their health and safety proves deliberate indifference on their part.
Although Beaumont was one of the hardest hit areas, the deaths and destruction were widespread. Governor Rick Perry declared a nine county disaster area. Martial Law was imposed on the city of Beaumont. The National Guard troops also played a crucial role in distributing much needed supplies along with FEMA and the American Red Cross. Eighty-two percent of all Entergy power lines were down along with nine thousand electric poles. Rita had hit Lufkin, which is one hundred twenty-five miles inland, as a Category 1 hurricane. Rita even knocked out power in Texarkana which is three hundred miles inland. The Target and Dillards department stores in Beaumont collapsed. Hardin Jefferson ISD could not reopen until October 17. Lamar University did not reopen until October 19. The death toll in Texas reached 113. Only three were considered direct deaths caused by winds, flooding, tornadoes, storm surge, or oceanic effects. The 110 indirect deaths were caused either by hurricane related accidents, crimes, fires, cleanup, evacuation incidents, or health issues (poisoning, lack of emergency aid). Jefferson County had six indirect deaths. Fortunately, as if the prisoners’ prayers were heard, the prison walls remained intact, no inmates perished, and prison officials did not have to explain their inaction.
Emergency rations from FEMA arrived at the Stiles Unit on Sunday afternoon. Some inmates who were let out to work told of dozens of staff officers taking hundreds of boxes of Family Relief Heals to their cars, vans, and trucks. In some cases they had inmates help load up vehicles at the kitchen dock area. Yet, Stiles was never designated as a FEMA or state approved distribution center. The resources donated by FEMA for disaster relief for inmates and staff were looted and taken out the back gate. Inmates who were locked down finally received an opened relief package with a two litre bottle of water Sunday night or Monday morning. That was the only boxed Family Relief Meals they would receive.
On Monday, September 26, 2005, some unidentified government or prison officials toured areas of the Stiles Unit and noticed the filthy, overcrowded conditions. They ordered the guards to move inmates back to the dorms. However, one dorm (#19) was so heavily damaged that its residents also had to stay in the less damaged dorm building (#18). Overcrowding was again an issue as twice the usual number of people were packed into cubicles and the dayrooms. There was no water, electricity, or any air circulation. This caused the inside temperatures to exceed 100 degrees by midday. In the confusion it was difficult at best to account for everyone. The men were confined to their cubicles or to their sleeping mats 24 hours a day for more than two weeks. Even with these measures, the guards had trouble clearing the count. Portable toilets were set up outside the main door to the building, but inmates weren’t allowed to use them at night because much of the security fencing around the unit had blown down. Even though there was a severe shortage of guards, there were no attempted escapes. Yet, one could hardly have blamed a prisoner for wanting to escape from these horribly inhumane conditions.
On Tuesday, September 27 the running water supply was restored to the unit. It was brackish and black in color, but at least the toilets could be flushed. Also that day, the inmates were given their first medications since before the storm. On Tuesday evening they were issued the first MRE relief rations—one opened package and one liter of drinking water. They were also given a speech by Warden Smith who promised them one liter of water with each meal. He also promised more FRM from FEMA within a day or two. These promises were never kept. However, boxed meals from the Red Cross were issued to those guards who stayed for the duration of the crisis, but no inmate would ever see any of these boxed meals.
The housing areas were without basic electricity, even though each building had its own generator, and would remain without electricity for two weeks. Many people who dared to shower with the heavily contaminated water developed sores on their bodies. Others experienced rashes, boils, and skin infections. The officers also complained of having no showers or change of clothes. There was no mail collected or delivered for about ten days. The final bottle of water was rationed out on October 10. The tap water was still foul tasting and smelled of sulfur. It continued to be brown in color with visible particles of an unknown nature. It was never tested for safety. Two days later, TDC guards were ordered to pick up all remaining bottles of drinking water found in the possession of inmates, telling the inmates to drink the water out of the tap. However, the correctional officers continued to use bottled water. During the entire three week period of recovery, each inmate received only one Family Relief Meal, four pouches of opened Meals Ready To Eat, and no more than five gallons of water. That is five gallons total for three weeks!
It is not just these accounts from prisoners at Stiles which allude to gross malfeasance and complete indifference by TDC officials. Similar accusations were made against the Federal Bureau of Prisons for not evacuating their maximum security prison in Beaumont. Isaac Ortiz, the federal correction officers’ union president, said conditions inside the pen after Rita were the worst he’d ever endured. He was quoted as saying, “When they decided not to evacuate, they risked everybody’s life. The Bureau of Prisons did jeopardize inmates’ safety. We did put them in harm’s way.” He expounded upon the horrible aftermath of the storm, “There were starving, stinking people with skin rashes from the feces. The cold shower water stung and was brown and smelly. Then they had to put on the same dirty clothes.” So both state and federal inmates on maximum security units in Beaumont were deprived of nearly every basic human need—food, water, sleep, medicine, clean clothes, showers, and flushing toilets. Of course, few people would argue that criminals should not have to suffer for their wrongdoing. But suffering caused by inhumane conditions such as these clearly constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.
Many inmates were traumatized by their fears of death and the unknown. Having their lives left to fate was stressful enough. But the worries of inmates and their families were exacerbated by the lack of basic communications and information available to them. Even worse was the misinformation disseminated by prison officials. When loved ones came to visit inmates at Stiles two weeks after the storm, they were told that no inmates were there and that they had been evacuated to other units. Why was there an attempted cover-up? There was also an obvious attempt to shift the blame by Michele Lyons, spokesperson for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. She claimed that the decisions to evacuate prisons are determined by the Texas Emergency Management Agency, not by TDC. Even if this were true, should any person or agency be able to override an executive order of the governor?
Remember, this was not a tornado that spawned without notice. It was a massive disturbance which gave more than five days of advance notice. There was more than enough time to execute an orderly evacuation.
The many atrocities which occurred before, during, and after this natural disaster could have been avoided if the mandated evacuation had been effected. There was an obvious lack of emergency preparedness. Yet, the complete indifference towards the health and safety of prisoners and staff by Warden Smith and other TDCJ officials was nothing less than criminal injustice. Officially, however, Warden Smith was commended for his valiant efforts during this crisis. Unofficially, Joe Smith was later persuaded to resign from his position of Senior Warden. He now works for a privately operated prison facility.
It would behoove the prison bureaucracy to give serious thought to this Biblical verse—“Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoner, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (Hebrews 13:3)
QUESTIONS ANSWERS FACTS
1. Q: When we bring our property, can we bring one small bag with hygiene, legal material, Bible, etc.?
FACT: No inmates had access to any of their property from building 19 for at least 10 days after the storm.
2. Q: If there is no visitation, will an emergency phone call be allowed?
A: AS SOON AS POWER IS RESTORED, VISITATION WILL ALSO BE RESTORED.
NO PHONE CALLS WILL BE ALLOWED DUE TO NO PHONE SERVICE.
FACT: Unit-wide phone service was repaired within 24 hours. Outside phone service was not repaired for several weeks. All visitors were turned away after being told that all inmates had been transferred to other units inland.
3. Q: What can be done for outgoing legal mail and notary service?
A: USPS IS NOT RUNNING SERVICE. THEREFORE, TDCJ CANNOT ACCOMMODATE THESE TYPE OF SERVICES AT THIS TIME.
FACT: TDCJ employees did receive their paychecks via USPS on September 30, via daily runs between units from Huntsville by TDCJ busses and or vans. If they could bring paychecks, they could have at least picked up outgoing mail.
4. Q: Are there accommodations for restroom facilities for paraplegics?
A: PARAPLEGICS WILL BE MOVED TO 4 BUILDING.
FACT: No handicapped inmate was ever moved to 4 Building. Four building was not handicapped equipped and never has been.
5. Q: When will the necessity exchange occur?
FACT: No clothing was washed due to no running water for at least 28 days after the storm.
6. Q: When will sick call requests occur for those who are not on the correct medications?
A: THIS SHOULD BEGIN ON MONDAY.
FACT: Medical personnel were evacuated. They could not return for two weeks. No proper meds were given for this reason.
7. Q: There have been orders to keep the facilities clean. Will cleaning supplies be distributed?
A: CLEANING SUPPLIES WILL BE DISTRIBUTED MONDAY.
FACT: Had cleaning supplies been distributed, there was no clean water to use it with. Brooms were our only means to clean up.
8. Q: Can we have access to a good report on the surrounding area?
A: AT THIS TIME, STAFF DOES NOT HAVE ACCESS TO ANY REPORTS: ONLY TWO CHANNELS ARE AVAILABLE. STAFF IS WORKING ON TURNING ON THE TVS IN THE DAYROOMS.
FACT: Oral reports could have been given at least once daily. Lighting was left on in the dayrooms for up to 16 hours a day, yet, there is a claim that there wasn’t enough power to turn the TVs on for an hour a day. All officers had both TVs and radios in the Officer’s Lounge turned on and also radios in their cars.
9. Q: Will housing assignments remain the same?
A: STAFF IS LOOKING AT MOVING SOME P2 & P3 INMATES
FACT: No inmates were evacuated.
10. Q: Will the inmates be allowed to take a few items of food, water bottles and pictures. Can the TVs be left on in the future?
A: NOT AT THIS TIME.
FACT: Inmates were not allowed to bring anything from building 19 to their temporary sleeping areas.
11. Q: Will 19 Building offenders return to their building when it is repaired?
FACT: Most offenders did return to Building 19 when it was repaired.
l2. Q: Some refrigerated medications have gone bad. What arrangements have been made for medication?
A: UTMB WILL RE-ORDER THE NECESSARY MEDICATIONS.
FACT: No medications were replaced for three weeks due to not having anyone return from the storm for three weeks.
13. Q: Can a bag of food items be brought over from 19 Building with the inmates?
FACT: Sleeping mats and I.D. cards only. Anyone trying to bring food or water received a disciplinary case for failing to obey a direct order.
14. Q: Can offenders use the dayrooms?
FACT: Dayrooms were being used already because inmates from 19 Building were being housed on the floors in the dayrooms.
15. Q: Why is the water safe to shower in but not to drink?
A: WHEN THE PUMPS GO DOWN, LITTLE PARTICLES, SUCH AS DIRT, COLLECT.
FACT: The water stayed filthy for more than three weeks.
16. Q: Why is medical being denied?
A: THERE IS NO POWER: THEREFORE RESOURCES ARE NOT AVAILABLE.
FACT: The National Guard had MASH Units in the area that could have dispensed proper medication had Warden Smith requested such.
17. Q: Why are we not evacuated?
A: YOU WERE, TO THE MAIN BUILDINGS.
FACT: Over one thousand inmates and guards from two prisons were first moved to Stiles, then airlifted inland to the safety of other units. The 3,200 inmates of Stiles Unit and their guards were left in the hands of fate.
18. Q: Can offenders receive one cup of ice?
A: STAFF IS IN THE PROCESS OF TRYING TO GET ICE WATER.
FACT: Ice was supplied by the Red Cross, but no inmate ever received the first cup.
19. Q: Why were the Gist & LeBlanc Units sent to Stiles Unit and then evacuated and Stiles Unit inmates abandoned to remain?
A: ALL INMATES WERE ASSIGNED TO A SAFE ENVIRONMENT.
FACT: Why was it considered safe for the inmates at Stiles, but not considered safe enough for the inmates first brought over from the other two units who were housed with us in the same building?
2O. Q: Why can’t inmates shower on a daily basis?
A: AS PREVIOUSLY STATED, THE STILES UNIT IS SERVICED BY THE CITY OF BEAUMONT. IF THE SYSTEM GOES DOWN NO WATER WILL BE PROVIDED.
FACT: Neither officers nor inmates could take showers or change into clean clothes for the three week period.
21. Q: Were any emergency generators ordered?
FACT: Each building already had its own generator in place.
22. Q: Are the inmates on lockdown status and why?
A: YES. YOU WILL REMAIN ON LOCKDOWN STATUS UNTIL POWER IS RESTORED AND NORMAL OPERATIONS BEGIN.
FACT: Inmates remained on lockdown for 28 days, no visitation for 22 days and no hot meals for 17 days. Why, since each building had its own emergency generators the whole time? Why were they were not used for inmates as they were intended?
23. Q: Why are the inmates being fed approximately every 15 hours?
A: MEALS ARE TRYING TO BE OFFERED AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE ACCORDING TO OUR RESOURCES AND STATUS.
FACT: The American Red Cross and the Salvation Army did in fact offer to supply meals to the inmates during the entire lockdown, but was rejected out of hand by either Warden Smith and or TDCJ Huntsville. Officers did receive Red Cross meals for over two weeks until they were able to cook in the Officer’s Dining Room (O.D.R.)
24. Q: How long before power is restored?
A: ENTERGY IS RESPONSIBLE FOR RESTORING THE POWER. THERE HAS NOT BEEN AN OFFICIAL ANNOUNCENENT ON THE LENGTH OF TIME.
FACT: See: Dallas Morning News for September 26, 2005. It said it would take two weeks or more as 82% of Entergy power lines were down, along with nine thousand poles.
25. Q: Why is water being issued at night?
A: THIS IS THE ONLY TIME STAFF IS AVAILABLE TO PERFORM THIS TASK.
FACT: This is an honest and fair statement.
26. Q: Is one gallon of water enough?
A: THIS IS THE GUIDELINE ESTABLISHED BY FEMA.
FACT: FEMA suggested one gallon of water per inmate per day.
27. Q: Trucks are bringing food and water, so why can’t letters be truck-mailed to Huntsville?
A: THIS TASK IS NOT POSSIBLE. RESOURSES ARE BEING USED FOR EMERGENCIES ONLY.
FACT: Warden Smith wants all or most mail screened before it is sent off the unit for security reasons. There was not enough personnel to perform this task.
28. Q: When can we access Law Library and legal mail?
A: THESE WILL BE AVAILABLE WHEN POWER IS RESTORED AND WE RESUME NORMAL OPERATIONS.
FACT: Many inmates have legal deadlines and neither the courts nor TDCJ are known to give an extension to an inmate, no matter the excuse.
29. Q: Can inmates receive more protein type meals?
A: IF YOU WANT, I CAN TAKE AWAY MRE’S AND FEED ONLY JOHNNIES.
FACT: Officers and staff ate three hot cooked meals a day cooked in the prison kitchen, or were given meals from the relief agencies. Inmates received only ‘Johnnies’ for most meals other than the single box of opened MREs. ‘Johnnies’ means a dry sandwich.
30. Q: If someone wanted to file an LID (Life In Danger) on The Stiles Unit, who would they file on?
A: WARDEN SMITH.
FACT: Warden Smith was the Senior Warden.
31. Q: Fryers and grills are gas activated, so why aren’t we being served hot meals?
A: YOU HAVE RECEIVED SOME.
FACT: The only people who ate hot meals were the staff, and the inmates who cooked for them.
32. Q: Is it true that Beaumont was allowed to come back at 2 p.m. today?
FACT: Residents of Beaumont and the surrounding counties were told not to return because there would not be any basic services available for at least three weeks.
33. Q: Who is the contact for our attorneys?
A: OMBUDSMAN OFFICE.
FACT: This is the office you are sent to when they pass the buck.
34. Q: Why was inner unit communication stopped?
A: THERE WAS NO SUPPORT STAFF AVAILABLE.
FACT: Warden Smith ordered all officers to not give out any info on the fear of getting fired.
35. Q: Why are officers eating cooked nutritious meals, and the inmates not?
A: DUE TO THE RESOURCES AVAILABLE AND THE NUMBER RATIO.
FACT: TDCJ Regulations state that: ‘Officers and inmates are to be served the same foods at all times.’ The same food that was served to the officers was available to be served to the inmates, for the very same inmates who cooked for the officers are the very same inmates who cook for the inmate population.
36. Q: Are you considering transferring us?
FACT: No evacuation plans were or are in place if one is needed.
37. Q: If an offender is assaulted, who may be contacted other than security?
A: ONLY SECURITY.
FACT: There is no one to oversee the security to complain to.
38. Q: Is the water safe for shaving?
FACT: Dozens, if not hundreds of men received rashes within days of shaving.
39. Q: Can inmates volunteer in any way to speed the process up?
A: G-l’s ARE BEING USED AT THIS TIME.
FACT: G-l’s are outside trustees, and since most of the fences were down, no inside inmate could be used.
40. Q: What is the ratio of water?
A: TWO QUARTS PER DAY.
FACT: At first, he said it was one gallon. Now he says it is two quarts.
41.Q: Johnny sandwiches delivered 9/27 had spoiled meat. Why serve them?
A: TO FEED YOU.
FACT: Notice the callousness of this answer from Warden Smith. This was not the only spoiled food the inmates received.
42. Q: When and how will grievance procedures be reinstated, and will our time be waved?
A: NORMAL GRIEVANCE OPERATIONS WILL RESUME WHEN POWER IS RESUMED.
FACT: When grievance operations did resume, no waiver of the 15-day limit to grieve a problem was allowed, effectively killing all grievances from this time period.
43. Q: When will commissary resume so inmates can buy their own food?
A: COMMISSARY WILL RESUME WHEN POWER IS RESTORED.
FACT: The question was more of a statement, being that the inmates wanted and needed more food!
44. Q: Can inmates have soap and bippy?
FACT: Things stayed pretty dirty for a long time.
45. Q: The inmates are supposed to be getting tennis shoes, but the officers are taking them away.
A: WHO SAID YOU ARE ALLOWED TENNIS SHOES? NO TENNIS SHOES ARE ALLOWED AT STILES.
FACT: Tennis shoes are and have been sold in the commissary and still are. The shoes taken from us were not returned.
46. Q: Are we under FEMA’s care now?
A: NO. YOU ARE UNDER WARDEN SMITH.
FACT: True! He made all the decisions.
47. Q: The county is declared a disaster. How do we apply for benefits?
A: YOU CANNOT. YOU HAVE TO BE A TAXPAYER.
FACT: We are taxpayers. We pay taxes on things we buy from the commissary, as well from any outside sources, and on any property we own. Even while incarcerated.
48. Q: Why has media not been allowed to talk to offenders?
A: FOR WHAT REASON? ALL MEDIA INTERVIEWS MUST FOLLOW A PROCESS AND BE APPROVED BY HUNTSVILLE.
FACT: True! What the general public doesn’t know can’t hurt TDCJ!
49. Q: Can you list the organizations who have donated items to offenders?
A: TDCJ, FEMA.
FACT: Many inmates made direct donations to the many relief agencies for their kind support during this crisis. In fact, more than a thousand dollars was donated by inmates of this unit, not their families. Yet not one cent was donated by either TDCJ Officials or TDCJ Officers of the Mark W. Stiles Unit to any agency, even though Warden Smith listed TDCJ as an organization that donated items in his answer.
THE YEAR 2010 IN PRE-VIEW
Again, it is hurricane season here in Southeastern Texas. To date, there has been one giant oil spill, one hurricane, and two powerful storms in the Gulf region.
Luckily for the thousands of prisoners in this area, we’ve only had a little rain. But this is only July 15, and most of the hurricanes that have hit Texas come ashore in August and/or September.
This may sound cold and callous, and you may say, “Sir, you broke the laws of Texas and are getting only what you deserve.” And in a way, that in and of itself may well be true. But let me remind you of this, no court of law, judge or jury ever sentenced the prisoners held here or in any of the half dozen prison facilities around this unit to death!
Thinking back to the Death Camps of WWII, both German and Japanese, I am reminded of the many tortures that were brought about on some of those prisoners.
Example: Many men, women, and children being held had guns put to their heads, or to the heads of loved ones as they were made to stand there and either watch as loved ones were murdered, or became victims themselves, but more often as not, the gun chambers were empty when the triggers were pulled.
Imagine yourself in either position. The one with the gun against his head, or any one of their family members made to stand there and watch, then to hear the click as the hammer fell.
One of the reasons this country gave up so many of its young lives was to ensure that this type of barbaric torture would never reach American shores, or any of its states. The fact that I am still here allows me to forewarn you. Each and every life that was sacrificed during WWII for the reasons mentioned before was in vain. Torture in the state of Texas is a fact of life.
Men, and women, and yes, even the very young who have committed a crime (and who is without sin or has not committed some type of crime?) and were sentenced to serve out a sentence of “time away from families and society” are routinely exposed to both physical and mental tortures not much different than those empty guns.
Another example: I have been assigned to this unit since 2003. During that time I have witnessed half a dozen hurricanes or major storms. I don’t want to make it out that every hurricane or storm was life threatening so let me jump to the four that were.
Katrina. She blew in from the Atlantic, and it took her more than two weeks before she came ashore, less than one hundred and fifty miles east of here. She could have just as easily come ashore in this area as well as New Orleans. But she didn’t.
Fact: Rita began in the Gulf, and continued growing to a Cat 5 storm over more than a week. You’d think that TDCJ Officials would have learned something from seeing all the damage caused by Katrina and put some evacuation plans in place. But, no plans were or are in place even today.
Hurricanes and their winds and water are only a small part of the storm. I can’t think of any hurricane that has hit the American coast line that did not spurt tornadoes in its wake. Had either Katrina or Rita which hit just a few miles east of here hit the Beaumont area, or Port Authur, both would have wiped out one or all of the area’s many state and or federal prisons, killing many hundreds or thousands of prisoners and the officers assigned to watch over and keep them safe. And remember this: None of the tens of thousands of prisoners serving ‘time’ were ever sentenced to death. Neither were the guards that were left behind.
Let me remind the reader that these prisoners are people too that were sentenced to a specific time of being locked away from society, and most would be rejoining society after they completed serving their time. When Rita hit just a few miles east of here, both Governor Perry and President Bush ordered mandatory evacuation of all residents along the Gulf Coast. Both men clearly stated in no uncertain words that not to evacuate was to die a certain death!
TDCJ-ID was given over my body and told to house this man. Nowhere in my sentencing structure, or by any state or federal legislation, was TDC given or granted a right to change my sentence to a death sentence by placing my life and those lives of the thousands of other prisoners lives in imminent peril. Especially when TDC Officials knew many days beforehand that both storms could easily hit this area. They had sufficient time to move us to safe areas around the state. To do less was to play Russian roulette with our very lives. They were to provide the safe housing the residents of the state of Texas had paid taxes for. And remember, when we are released from prison, every one of us are going to remember how we were treated in prison. Many will be bitter and all will have a right to feel bitter that is if the upcoming hurricanes and tornadoes don’t kill us off first.
When the officials at this unit, or those in charge in Huntsville moved the entire inmate population from two other smaller prison units to this unit, both of which are within eyesight of here, they were told that this was a secure unit. This was told to their inmate population prior to moving them here because the main buildings could withstand force winds of 110 mph gusts (not sustained).
Take this into consideration: Hurricane Humbrey was only a Cat 1 when it came ashore in Port Charles, which is just down the road from here. It did little damage along the coast, but by the time it hit the Tennessee Valley, it had spun a dozen tornadoes across three states destroying buildings and killing too many in its path. And that was more than five hundred miles inland.
Now, Rita had hurricane forces of a Cat two with sustained winds of 110 mph plus, which also spun many tornadoes, one of which laid down almost every root of security fencing and hard railing on our unit. Had that tornado, or any of the other tornadoes hit one or all of the pre-fab buildings we were locked up in, and were just a few yards away from, many a man’s sentence would have been a death sentence needlessly.
Who gave these overseers called “Prison Officials” the exclusive right to decide who had a right to be saved, or would be put in death’s path? Especially when the Governor and the President ordered every person evacuated. Note: The Warden and his family did evacuate several days before the storm hit. These people held the gun and spun the chamber, then pulled the trigger time and time again for every man, whether prisoner or guard, that was let behind.
What is the difference between the TDCJ-ID Officials that made those decisions and the commandant on those Nazi and Japanese prisons that pulled the trigger on so many people?
In conclusion, it is my belief that the Nazis won that war and are now in control of the state of Texas! Convince me otherwise. Today in the Gulf, there is enough oil floating to cover Southeastern Texas and Louisiana in several inches of oil. Think about this for a moment. Let’s say a water spout is spun from a storm, it doesn’t have to be a hurricane, but that spout dumps just an eighth of an inch over just the Beaumont area and somebody or something causes it to ignite. The entire states of Texas and Louisiana combined doesn’t have the resources to fight a fire fed by that much oil, and we’re only three miles inland. Tens of thousands could die and most certainly will be inmates locked down in death chambers unable to even fight for their lives.
God help the inmates if another storm hits the upper Gulf Coast. Who then is gonna choose who is going to be moved to safety and who will have a gun held to his head!