World Day Against the Death Penalty: Continue the Strikers’ Work & Demand Changes in TDCJ

On October 18th, 2018 the Board of Criminal Justice, which oversees Texas prisons, will meet in Austin. Whether you are a family member, an abolitionist, a formerly incarcerated person, or an advocate for reform, it is clear we must let the Board know we will not stand by quietly as the horrific situation inside of TDCJ continues. Many of us may not be able to make it to the show of a “public comment” portion of the meeting, and we can tell you from experience you will be treated with disrespect and be very angry after this guise of accountability is finished, but we can make “public comments” through contacting the board.

Contact:

Texas Board of Criminal Justice
PO Box 13084
Austin, Texas 78711
tbcj@tdcj.texas.gov

Want to comment at the meeting? See the details here, and make sure to follow the procedures for public comment and be aware they may shorten your time to speak to only a minute, or however they feel on that day.

What are our demands? In line with the National Prison Strike from September, previous death row protests, and a knowledge of other issues that are being raised and/or litigated, these are the Texas specific demands that we want everyone to demand action on. We must fight for all prisoners regardless of race, sexuality and gender identity, or type of crime. Otherwise they only use these issues to divide and conquer resistance.

People’s Platform for Justice in TDCJ, October 2018:

We, residents of Texas and/or family and friends of human beings imprisoned in Texas Department of Criminal Justice, demand that the department act to respond to and correct the cruel, inhumane, and detrimental conditions in their facilities. Prisoners have expressed through work stoppages, protests, grievances, and litigation the following problems, for which we seek a commitment from officials to work to correct them and improve conditions accordingly.
  • Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned people. 
  • An immediate end to prison slavery. All persons imprisoned in any place of detention in Texas must be paid the prevailing wage.
  • An immediate end to the racial overcharging, over-sentencing, and parole denials of Black and brown humans. Black humans shall no longer be denied parole because the victim of the crime was white, which is a problem in southern states.
  • No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation programs at their place of detention because of their label as a violent offender.
  • State prisons must be funded specifically to offer more rehabilitation services.
  • The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pretrial detainees, and so-called “ex-felons” must be counted. Representation is demanded. All voices count.
  • Air conditioning and heating should be provided in all facilities. To ensure a healthy and safe environment for all people inside the facilities, temperatures should be maintained no cooler than 60 F and no warmer than 80 F. 
  • An end to policies that harm LGBTQ and Gender Non-conforming prisoners. No banning of LGBTQ reading materials or material with LGBTQ characters. An end to forcing LGBTQ inmates into ad-seg. Creation of a bra policy that 1. requires units in TDCJ to issue bras to trans inmates, 2. to replace bras as needed, 3. to wash bras on a regular basis. Enforcement of the PREA policy provision that trans individuals can have a private shower and restroom. Creation of a new strip search policy that prohibits male guards from making transwomen take their bras off, or to strip in public. Revision of the grooming policy that allows trans prisoners to have long hair, wear makeup, and purchase female hygiene items. Creation of a new policy that prohibits guards to misgender transwomen and transmen.
  • An end to mass censorship of reading material based on vague and poorly applied rules about race, sexuality, and morality. This denies many important works of literature and denies access to educational materials as well. The current policy is outdated, harmful, and prejudiced.
  • Independent testing of water for harmful substances and poor/undrinkable water quality. Once facilities with poor/undrinkable water quality are identified immediate instillation of water filtration and providing of free bottled water until the water is independently determined safe to drink.
  • Independent testing for harmful environmental conditions including mold and other potential toxins. Immediate removal of prisoners from any cells/wings/prisons determined to be toxic to human health. 
  • An end to solitary confinement, or administrative segregation, for all incarcerated people including Death Row.
  • An end to harmful visitation policies that deny contact visits to some incarcerated people regardless of their behavioral record. Increased visitation and family programming is needed for rehabilitation. Family members are unfairly punished by current policies. This also includes increased access to phones or tablets for all prisoners to contact their families and legal team.
  • An end to the exploitation of loved ones through price gouging of food, photos, telephone calls, video visits, and other items.
  • End to collective punishment through lockdowns, gassing of inmates, and increased denial of materials and privileges based on isolated incidents.
  • Food quality must improve, and should be nutritious, properly prepared, and not high in sodium and sugar. Unclean and poor quality food is a major factor in preventable illness, and diseases such as diabetes, in TDCJ.
  • Daily group recreation for all incarcerated people, including Death Row.
  • Access to group religious services for all incarcerated people, including Death Row.
  • Shaving is sometimes enforced illogically, punishing men severely for having stubble even though they are allowed razors only a few days a week. This could be easily resolved by allowing men facial hair or allowing them electric razors.
  • Prisoners should be provided with more than one roll of toilet paper a month and not be limited in the amount of sanitary pads they have access to. This is a sanitary and health issue, as well as an issue of basic human dignity.
  • An end to the gassing of inmates for civil disobedience or non-violent disciplinary issues.
  • An end to frivolous citations and disciplinary actions against incarcerated people for so-called “trafficking” of food, literature, sanitary items, papers, and stamps. This encourages even more isolation and deprivation for prisoners and also goes against basic moral principles of sharing, creating community, and caring for people with fewer resources, which should be encouraged.
  • An overhaul of medical and mental health care to address preventable deaths and prolonged suffering due to treatable health conditions and suicides.If TDCJ is not able or willing to treat them appropriately, they should be granted compassionate release. It is not the job of TDCJ to torture incarcerated people, especially those suffering medical or mental health issues.
  • Access to restorative justice programs, which facilitate rehabilitation, for all people incarcerated in Texas. 
  • An end to excessive shackling of inmates based on their housing status. This is dehumanizing and causes severe issues for those with health or mobility issues.

Sincerely,

(All of us!)

 

 

 

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