Cruel and Unusual Punishment

They keep trying to take us down and out. Why? My punishment is DEATH . . . not torture until DEATH, right? Hell, Iím beginning to wonder about that myself. Texas Death Row prisoners were moved from Ellis unit to our present prison, Polunsky Unit, back in the year 2000. Now, slowly and systematically, the systems has taken everything away from us.

They say the move was due to lack of room to house Death Row inmates at Ellis unit. So why all the new limitations and restrictions of our privileges? Let me run down what Ellis unit was like, and what Polunsky unit is like, in contrast. At Ellis unit, your good behavior was rewarded with a Death Row Work Capable Program. That is where the prisoners worked for TDCJ, free labor, in order to earn special privileges. I was housed on the work program 95% of my time at Ellis unit. I was housed with a cellie and my cell door opened every hour on the hour from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and 6 a.m. until midnight on Friday and Saturday.

On each work capable program wind, there were 33 cells with two prisoners in each cell. We were allowed group interaction. We played handball, basketball, had Bible study together, and people worked on their legal cases together. We were a small community. We were also allowed to order art supplies to make jewelry boxes, clocks and pictures frames for our loved ones.

Of course, there were also wings that were locked down for those who wanted to act out. Every man must do his own time. But even those that were locked down still had access to television. I enjoyed the ability to interact with people and the privileges the program gave me. I modified my behavior to be sure to stay on the program.

Now we are here on Polunsky unit. If you have good behavior, it is not much better than if you act up and ďbuckĒ the system. Level one or level 3, you are locked in your ďcageĒ 23 hours out of every day. No television, no longer allowed to purchase any art supplies, northing but a cheap radio, if you can afford one from the commissary. The only difference between level three and level one is that once a week you are allowed to go to the commissary one day a week. You are also allowed to keep a radio, coffee pot, and typewriter.

You also get to go to recreation for one hour a day, seven days a week. Now, our recreation is a joke. It is single man recreation, where you have no one to be with but yourself. They just move you from your small personal cage into a bigger cage with, hold your breath, a freaking chin up bar in it. Oh boy, Iíll be good now!!!

Every other week they take away more and more from us. Along with the lack of privileges, and human contact, bit by bit my humanity has been slipping away. Or dare I say, it is being systematically taken away from me.

I am one of the more fortunate ones here on the row. I have a loving mother and some great friends that support me in all way needed. I have a radio. I have correspondence with people in the free-world.

As I write this article and my other articles about this place, I donít only myself in mind, but all the inmates on Death Row. Of course, this is my point of view and mine alone. As I watch friends here, friends I knew at Ellis unit, intelligent men, active men, caring men, friends I care about, they are turning into mindless animals under the mental and emotional torture dished out to us at the Polunsky Unit. It hurts. men who feel the need to mark their territory with their own bodily wastes. Yes, to smear fecal matter on the walls in their cages, the same cages they spend 23 hours a day in.

It not only hurts me, but it scares me too. They mumble and yell at unseen ghosts who torture their minds. Why does it scare me? Because I could be the next person to find comfort in my own insanity. I would not think it could happen to met, but why not? Iíve seen it happen to men who, in my eyes, were always much smarter than I and much more intone with themselves. People with loving family and friends to support them. Why not me? Is giving up my sanity the only way I can escape this torturous hell I live in? No, not live in, but merely exist in? I hope to never find out.

Iím sure a lot of these humans turned animal thought the same thing before they broke down and their minds snapped. Or should I say before the system, through its Hitler-like regimen broke them. Do they find peace and comfort in their insanity? Other men on the row chose to just drop their appeals when they feel the insanity of our existence is catching up with them. Could that be the whole goal of this system of mental and physical torture? It sure does save the State of Texas, the killing capital of the USA, millions of dollars in court costs.

No, I am not one to embrace conspiracy theories, but I will not ignore the reality that is forced down my throat day after day. I exist in this emptiness!

This was going to be the end of this article, but when I went to my recreation cage this morning, there was yet another I.O.C. An I.O.C. is an Inter-Office Communication. It was posted on the wall to take more away for us? Now get this, the new rule state: ďWE ARE NO LONGER ALLOWED TO HAND UP CLOTHESLINES FROM 6 A.M. TO 6 P.M. Okay, some of you may say, so what? What is the big deal? Well I, along with everyone else on the row, am responsible for washing my own clothes (i.e., shorts, undershirts, socks, boxers, thermal pants, tops, wash clothes).

These are all clothes that we are allowed to purchase through the Polunsky Unit commissary, along with laundry detergent to wash them with. We are also issued a state towel every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. Still donít see the problem? Well, let me tell you why this is such an ignorant and absurd rule. We are only allowed to recreate one hour per day. Recreation starts at 6 a.m. in the morning. When the first manís hour is up, then the second man in line gets his hour. Now as the recreation progresses, they start to run showers for the individuals who have already gone to recreation and done their push ups, jogging, or whatever form of exercise they elect to use to stay in a somewhat healthy state. 99% of the time, all recreation and showers are completed by 3 p.m. in the afternoon. So after shower, where does one hang his wet towel, the towel he has to use the next day, or if it is a Friday, the next three days? How about the wash cloth we use to wash our bodies with? And what about our dirty clothes that have become sweaty from recreation?

Oh I guess they say it is alright for us to just pile up our sweaty, stinking, wet boxers in the corner of our cage until 5:30 p.m., and then start to wash them. Our cells are four cement walls and a solid steel door. Ventilation is not that great, to say the least. So now we must sit in our cage and smell our soiled laundry. Maybe Iím seeing something that just is not there, but I donít think so.

Well, I had better finish this off here of my web site manager might try asking for a raise. Smile Missy and thanks for all your help.

Sincerely, Richard M. Cartwright