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Conditions on Death Row

July 27, 2004

The following comments were made recently by Nancy Bailey, a member of the Board of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, to the Texas Prison Board:


Madam Chairman and Board Members,

As most of you know, I have spoken before this group several times and filled your mailboxes many more times.

Although I have brought several issues to the attention of the board, I have not received any indication that the board is interested in death row issues other than security issues.

In a world that is confined to a 6 X 10 cell 23 and sometimes 24 hours a day, such concerns as inadequate and unpalatable food are important. This problem is being ignored and denied. My efforts to bring examples of food problems to administration have met with the response that they have received no corresponding grievances. Men who are allowed one grievance a week should not be expected to use it to report a food problem which is an every day reality.

Additionally, prisoners need a real grievance system. Many grievances never arrive at their destination. Allegations of mistreatment by prisoners are not given real investigations. Prisoner witnesses are rarely interviewed. In most cases, COs' versions are accepted without question. Most grievances come back stamped "No Action Warranted". I am requesting that the limitation to 1 grievance per week be removed, and that a more responsive system be initiated.

Problems abound in the mailroom. Mail is not getting in or getting out on time. Complaints are answered with a recitation of the policy. The policy is not being followed.

Commissary has been cut in half allegedly due to the loss of 3 employees who were to be replaced. I have requested but not been given an answer as to whether these positions have been filled.

Men are being moved very frequently in the name of security. I am told repeatedly that they are routinely moved to cells formerly occupied by one of the ever increasing mentally ill prisoners, who leave filthy cells with excrement on the walls and floor. The timing of these moves often causes prisoners to miss commissary. I am receiving letters from men who have not had commissary in a month.

There is a correlation between numbers of weapons found in shakedowns and the tensions created by ever increasing restrictive conditions for men who have absolutely no outlet.

I would like an indication from this board that they understand how these issues, long ignored, impact security.


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