IMPORTANT LETTER WRITING CAMPAIGN
I will lay out below a letter drafted by an inmate at Terrell which I worked on with him regarding an urgent letter writting campagain to the Board of Criminal Justice. The board has been constantly avoiding to address the issue of the work program, amongst other things and the warden at Terrell keeps refering to the Board for that sort of decisions and policy...
All your help and time is needed, please use this letter, either as it is now or personlize it if you wish, but please act on it and pass it on to as many people and groups that you know. Thank you so much in advance.
Mr McSTRINGFELLOW, Chairman
TEXAS BOARD OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE
PO BOX 13084
FAX 512 305 93 98
Dear Mr Stringfellow,
Ever since it was reported that, due to Martin Gurule's escape from the Ellis Unit in 1998, death row inmates would be moved to the Terrell Unit, we have been told that amenities like a work program and TV's for the inmates would be considered once the move was done. The move was completed in March 2000, yet no consideration of the above mentioned amenities has been given, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of death row inmates are obedient and have proven themselves willing to behave well under less restrictive conditions.
It seems that the administrative hierarchy of the TDCJ prefers to dismiss the weighty matter of humanitarian treatment in favor of gulag-type restrictions that dehumanize the inmates and due to to sensory deprivation adversely affect their mental capabilities. We have been told that the inmates's current living conditions are not punitive, but Mr Stringfellow, we are not naive : when a person's recreation is cut from fourteen hours per day to one, the TV he's been allowed to watch for years are taken away, as well as his group religious services and craft work, this is punishment and any attempt to characterize it otherwise is laughable. We understand that the TDCJ's official position on craft work is that inmates may still do it, but they may buy only those items sold in the commissary, which are of the cheapest quality and those cater exclusively to people who do art work or write, while those who can do nothing but wood work are left out. This, also, doesn't resolve the situation of those on level 2 and 3 who are regularly denied commissary access.
The most common reason we hear for why the work
program, TV's, etc, are not being considered is
security breaches like the hostage situation in
early 2000 and an inmate spitting out a handcuff
key while on the execution table, but both
instances involved the same inmate (who was also
involved with the Gurule escape attempt), and we
wonder why all the inmates are being punished for
the actions of a few ? Indeed, the majority of
inmates now housed in death row administrative
segregation status have done nothing wrong !
Another reason we hear for why a less restrictive environment for death row inmates is not being considered is that the Ruiz cased is being appealed by the State, but what we ask does not hinge on whether the State wins or loses its appeal. It can be accomplished by a decision from the Board that you chair.
Therefore, I respectfully request that the Board of Criminal Justice places on the agenda of its next meeting a proposal to reinstate the death row work program (which operated without any problems during 12 years at Ellis) and to allow all death row inmates on level one disciplinary status to buy a smal color TV from the commissary to watch in their cell.
This would not be coddling but an expression of basic humanatarism. Please stop punishing the majority for the actions of a few. Beside the fact that the above mentioned conditions are unconstitutional, they will inevitably bring behavioral problems on death row beyond control.
Thank you very much for your time and attention on this urgent matter.