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Judicial CP - March 1999


Dallas Morning News, 8 March 1999

Letters to the Editor

TDCJ veteran: more progress difficult

I was a 13-year veteran of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. I spent most of that time at some of the most dangerous places on earth: the Darrington Unit in Rosharon and the Terrell Unit in Livingston. In a way Judge William Wayne Justice, and the office of the Special Masters that presided over the Ruiz vs. Estelle litigation, should take credit for the conditions in Texas prisons. True, the building tender, turnkey, leadrow system was applied in an unconstitutional manner. True, the overcrowding was awful. And true, there were no uniform departmental policies that covered day-to-day procedures for each unit. But Judge Justice's judicial activism created a vacuum that was filled by prison gangs. At one point, the department's administrative segregation policies helped stem the tide for awhile.

Part of the credit for the prison conditions goes to us, John Q. Public, because of the craze to "lock 'em up and throw away the key." Not that that was all bad, however, now you have a new breed of "superpredatory" criminals. These violent gang-related criminals are doing long stretches, with little hope of release.

I don't care what the plaintiffs' attorneys say; I know of no one who really had a cavalier attitude toward the suffering of the weaker inmates. If they see corrections staff as being that way, it is because it was all one could do to keep from crying or committing suicide. I left the system because of that stress. In order for an inmate to be placed in protective custody, he must be specific as to the threat (give names) and snitching will still get you killed. The threatened inmate must be able to show he is in "clear" danger of being assaulted. If everyone who sniveled about how afraid they were got placed in protective custody, the state would have to build 100 more units.

I'm afraid that no one has the wisdom to solve the prison dilemma. Maybe the judicial activists need to target the predators in the system. One answer might be corporal punishment with a uniform way of carrying it out, that had to be documented and accounted for. The "Bleeding Heart Sobsters" would have a fit. But maybe they need to hear the cries of an inmate who had just been sodomized, and beaten half to death to change their mind.


1999 The Dallas Morning News All Rights Reserved

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