Sunday, November 09, 2008

End the Polunsky Unit Lockdown Now!

The Abolition Movement spent the majority of our meeting on November 5 discussing the current situation at the Polunsky Unit.

The consensus was that anything and everything should be tried until this lockdown ends, visits are restored, shakedowns are ended and life returns to what TDCJ considers normal.

We all know that “normal” conditions are in and of themselves horrific and that they violate the prisoners’ human rights. The isolation is driving the prisoners mad. The lack of group recreation, a work program, television, religious services, piddling privileges and human interaction are illegal and inhumane. We want to succeed with ending the lockdown and then continue to work around conditions.

Here’s our proposals. How many can YOU do?

  1. Monday, Wednesday and Friday are “Call-in Days” until the lockdown ends. We want everyone to make 3 calls--to the Polunsky Unit warden, the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, and Governor Rick Perry. Warden Tim Simmons: 936-967-8082. Texas Board of Criminal Justice: (512) 475-3250. Governor Rick Perry: 1-800-252-9600 (All in Texas except Austin) everyone else 512-463-2000. The demands are to end the lockdown, end the shakedowns, restore visitation, restore commissary, restore regular showers and recreation—in other words, restore normalcy. Keep notes of who you speak with and what they tell you and them report it to us so we can keep track.

  2. Attend the Senate Criminal Justice Committee hearing on Nov. 13 in Austin at the Capitol. It will be at 10 AM in Capitol Extension, Room E1.016. According to their web page they will take public testimony and one of the items on their agenda is the use of lockdown procedures. Our point should be that once cells have been searched once or even two times, then life should return to “normal.” Also, personal possessions that are permitted should not be destroyed—from typewriters, to radios, to legal papers to photos of loved ones. This is NOT contraband. Food should be enough calories that prisoners don’t lose unintended weight and are kept hungry. So far, we have three people from Houston committed to attending and speaking. Who else can join us? We will notify the media about this.

  3. Schedule meetings with members of the Board of Criminal Justice. We found that two of those on the board live in Houston and we are setting up appointments with them for a delegation to meet and discuss the abuses going on. Check their web page to see if some of them live in your city. The chair of the board lives in Horseshoe Bay, which is in the Hill Country in Burnet and Llano Counties but his business is in Austin and is a corporation that helps clients implement effective labor relations strategies. Oliver J. Bell & Associates, 13449 Dulles Avenue, Austin, Texas 78729, Phone 512.249.6200, Fax 512.249.6607. The vice-chair of the board clerked for (gasp!!) Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court and Edith Jones (gag!) on the 5th Circuit. He lives in Cedar Park, which is in the Austin area. Others live in Amarillo, Highland Park (Dallas), Arlington, Lubbock, and San Antonio. Schedule these meetings soon and certainly before the Board meets on Dec. 2-3.

  4. Attend the meeting of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice on December 3 in Austin. The meeting is at the Sheraton Austin Hotel, 701 East 11th Street, Austin, Texas 78701, Tel: (512) 478-1111, Fax: (512) 479-6458. The meeting on Dec. 3 will allow public comments only on agenda items, but surely the cell phone / security / contraband issue will be on the agenda. If it isn’t, we should sign up to speak on an agenda item and then talk about the lockdown anyway. We plan to notify the media that we will be attending and have a statement for them.

  5. Contact media / reporters and ask them to investigate why cells are being shaken down four and five times and why personal property is being destroyed that is allowed and NOT contraband, i.e. legal materials, photos, radios, typewriters, hot pots.

  6. Find a lawyer who will investigate and possibly file a lawsuit regarding the arbitrariness of lock down procedures and the abuses that have gone on. Yolanda Torres was one attorney who was suggested. It was also suggested we contact the NAACP in every major Texas city, MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense Fund), LULAC, ACLU and also their Prisons and Jails Accountability Project, and the Texas Civil Rights Project which has offices in San Juan, Austin and El Paso. Who can volunteer to help with this?

  7. Write letters to the editors of all major Texas newspapers describing what has been going on at Polunsky and asking for an investigation. Does anyone already have a list of e-mail addresses or street addresses together for Letters to the Editor for papers in Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Livingston, Lubbock, Amarillo, El Paso and whatever is the biggest paper in the Rio Grand Valley.

  8. Contact Texas legislators to be part of a delegation that will make an impromptu visit to Polunsky to make an inspection and question prisoners. Sherri will contact State Rep Dora Olivo, Gloria will contact Reps Jessica Farrar and Senfronia Thompson, and we will have someone contact Reps Harold Dutton and Garnett Coleman and Senator Rodney Ellis. Other cities and other Reps or Senators? This needs to happen asap.

  9. A demonstration outside of Polunsky if the lockdown does not end. The rumor is that it will last for three months. This means until AFTER the holidays and is unacceptable.

  10. Write to your friends family or friends on death row and ask them to document what is happening. Then share that with everyone, us as well as the media where you live.

On Thursday, when one of our members called Polunksy, she was told that the lockdown might continue for three months. Also, they said that the men were now getting hot meals. Can anyone verify this? Also, the men were being allowed to make commissary, but only for a limited amount of stamps and hygiene products, but nothing else.

Pick a least one thing you can do. Share this with others. Please keep us informed about what YOU are doing so that your actions can be shared with others. If you have another idea, share it!

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