I’ve been contemplating writing this article for the past week now. It has been on my mind constantly and I have decided to “vent” my feelings to all of you and hope to get some kind of feedback.
On February 1, 2004, prisoner Calvin McGee, #999298 was found dead in his cell early in the morning. Cause of death was found to be natural causes! A heart attack! Calvin was 29 years old when he died. I did not know Calvin very well, but I have lived around him and interacted with him. I have not seen Calvin in over a year now. Yes, he was young and he was also overweight, but with the lack of exercise provided for us and what is almost non-existent movement, that should not surprise anyone. We are locked in our cells 23 hours a day and allowed only one hour a day recreation. This takes place in a bigger cage. I will touch more on this issue later on in this article.
See, Calvin has had at least two instances where he has had chest pains since being here on the row. The first time he experienced chest pains, the other prisoners around Calvin had to kick and beat on the9ir doors for almost ten minutes before a guard even acknowledge them. Thanks to the lackadaisical attitudes of 90% of the guards here, they usually ignore the beating and banging, not wanting to get off their butts to see what is wrong. Well, when the guard finally came to the crash gate, which is approximately 20 to 25 yards from Calvin’s cell, he started asking him questions about what his problem was.
After some more help from the other prisoners, making loud demands that the man needed medical attention, the guard finally came into the section and talked to Calvin in front of his cell. The whole time, no medical people are anywhere in sight. 30 minutes later, the officers took Calvin down to see the medical people. When Calvin got back on the wing and was asked what was said, he stated “Man, they said I probably just have gas and that nothing is wrong with me. Then they gave me some Tylenol and told me to put in a sick call.” You should know that it usually takes three to four days to get to see the doctor once the sick call is placed.
The second instance was a bit more serious and should have raised some type of flags with the medical department. Calvin was having chest pains and lost the feeling in both his legs. Once again, everyone started to beat and bang on their cell doors to get someone’s attention. Now this incident I’m getting ready to explain happened shortly before Calvin’s death due to NATURAL CAUSES!!! After they finally got some attention, the ranking officer came down to bring Calvin to the medical facility here on Polunsky unit in a wheelchair. Now get this, Calvin cannot feel his legs and is having sharp pains in his chest, and the Sergeant demands that Calvin come to the door, get strip searched and handcuffed before he can come out of his cell. Now he is saying if you want to see the doctor, you will comply. This is procedure .. blah, blah…safety…blah, blah…
Well, Calvin finally managed to crawl to the door. I can only imagine the pain and humiliation this must have been for him! He got stripped searched and handcuffed. Now once again, when he gets down to the medical station, the powers-in-charge tell him he just has gas. They probably just looked at his chart from his last visit down there. So guess what they do? That is correct, they give him the TDCJ fix all, Tylenol!!! Your medical troubles are over now, son! Yeah, right!!!
So now when they deem his death to be of NATURAL CAUSES, I must stand up and shout NO, NO, NO! His death was caused by neglect! They figure we are here to die anyway, so why spend the time or money to help us. They lock us up in our cages for 23 hours a day, and wonder how one becomes so overweight that he dies of a heart attack. Yes, there is no arguing the fact that we are here to die, but doe the death penalty here in Texas come with some “extra bonus baggage?” It seems to me that we are subject to mental and physical torture daily until our turn comes to grease the wheels of the might Texas killing machine with our life’s blood.
Inhumane treatment is an understatement. We are fed and brought to the slaughter house just like human cattle. They even use a chemical cocktail that veterinarians have deemed too cruel to use to put animals to sleep. That sums up the attitude in Texas about killing people in mass numbers through out the year. It is all too easy to succumb to the depressive state to where one does not even want to come out of their little cage to go to the big cage for one hour of recreation. The guards do what they can to make sure you don’t come out. Strip searches, shake down your cell any time you leave it, but leave you alone if you refuse your recreation and shower. It is sick!!!
I often find myself wanting to stay in my cell and refuse recreation, but I know if I don’t go out and run or do push ups to keep my mind and body as healthy as possible, I’m in trouble because these people are not going to lift a finger to help anyone of us.
TYLENOL TREATMENT! I don’t know what good this article will do, but I owe it to Calvin to put it out there. I owe it to the rest of the men here on death row too, along with myself. I no one talks, then no one will hear, and nothing will get done. NATURAL DEATH it was not!
In closing, I would like to offer my deepest, heartfelt condolences to the entire McGee family for their loss. God bless you and comfort you in your time of mourning.
In solidarity and struggle, Richard M. Cartwright