Tuesday, January 30, 2007

TDCJ's response to Rep. Jerry Madden about the Texas death-row conditions

These are the responses TDCJ sent to Representative Jerry Madden, chairman of the house Corrections Committee regarding the death-row conditions. Unsurprisingly they are useless and don't add too much information.

1) Arts and crafts programs for death row inmates;

In order to ensure maximum security, offenders assigned to Death Row
are not provided access to craft shops. However, they are allowed to
purchase supplies available through the commissary (colored pencils,
paper, etc.) for their use.

2) Circulation of chemicals in ventilation (mainly at women's death

In regards to the Mountain View Unit and ventilation in the Death
Row housing area following the use of chemical agents (as permitted in
the TDCJ Use of Force Plan), chemical agents have not been used in
the building housing death row offenders since March 2006. A review of
recent grievance records also indicates no grievances have been filed
regarding this issue.

Nor are offenders sprayed with any type of "de-lousing" agent upon
arrival at Death Row; such treatments would be administered at an
intake facility prior to the offender's transfer to the Mountain View

3) Visitation limitations;

TDCJ is aware of the important role that visitation serves in
maintaining communication between offenders and their families and
friends. However, due to the high level of custody supervision
required for death row offenders, all visits are non-contact. Level I
offenders (most death row offenders are on Level I) are allowed one
general visit per week; Level II offenders are allowed two general
visits per month; and Level III offenders are allowed one general
visit per month. Regular visits last for two hours.

4) Disciplinary measures (i.e. use of SWAT teams and riot gas);

No use of force, to include SWAT teams and riot gas, are used
for disciplinary purposes. Authorized sanctions for violation of
agency rules are described in the disciplinary rules and
procedures for offenders.

However, there are occasions within a correctional setting when it
becomes necessary for staff to use force in order to achieve the
compliance of an offender, or to maintain a safe and secure
environment for offenders and

staff. It is the policy of the Agency that force shall be used only

necessary, and only to the extent necessary to gain compliance. If
lesser means have proven ineffective, chemical agents may be
used to gain compliance from an offender who refuses to obey.
After chemical agents

have been used and the situation has been brought under

individuals and the area affected by the chemical agents are
decontaminated as soon as possible. Occasionally, for example when an
offender refuses a direct order to move from one location to
another or to relinquish a weapon, a forced move must be initiated by
a specially trained extraction

team. When the need for the "use of force" arises, the TDCJ has

strict guidelines and rules. At the conclusion of any major use of
force, the documentation is reviewed not only by unit administration,
but also by the Regional Director's office, Office of General
Counsel, and the Administrative Monitor for Use of Force. If any
violations are found, appropriate action is taken.

5) Prisoner classification (i.e. the fact that a Texas death row
inmates have no hope of getting out of administrative segregation - while others do);

Offenders receiving a death sentence require the highest level of
custody supervision available in the Correctional Institutions
Division (CID) of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). It
is the policy of the TDCJ-CID to provide a non-punitive status for
death row offenders that involves separation of death-sentenced offenders from the
general population for the purpose of maintaining safety, security, and

While other offenders assigned to segregative status may eventually
be released back into general population, due to the high level of
custody required for death row offenders, they remain separated from
the general population.

6) Visitors' health concerns (e.g. cleanliness of visiting room phones);

All TDCJ units strive to keep visitation areas sanitary and

Visitors wishing to report unsanitary conditions may ask to speak to
the Duty Warden/Family Liaison Officer at the time of their visit; or,
they may contact the TDCJ-CID Ombudsman Office, P. O. Box 99,
Huntsville, Texas; telephone: ; e-mail:
ci.div@tdcj.state.tx.us The agency will continue to consider additional
means to enhance the sanitation and cleanliness of visiting areas.

7) Death row health services.

The Department of Criminal Justice, the Correctional Managed Health
Care Committee and the University providers strives to provide all
incarcerated offenders in the custody of the TDCJ, to include death row
offenders, with quality health care. The standard of care is the same for the
entire offender population. If an offender feels he/she is not
receiving adequate medical treatment, the offender may contact the unit
medical department or utilize the offender grievance process.

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