Imprisoned writer Jason Renard Walker reports on the extreme heat conditions that come with summer in the Texas prison system, and how the administration turns a blind eye.
Heat-related conditions at the Allred Unit are cruel, unusual and a purveyance of unwritten policies
By Jason Renard Walker, Minister of Labor – NABPP
As the extreme summer heat in Texas nears, Texans are preparing by purchasing summerwear, drinks and trinkets designed to combat the humidity and heat.
In contrast, officials at the Allred Unit in Iowa Park, Teas, haven't prepared to protect prisoners from heat-related injuries, like strokes, dehydration and exhaustion, despite temperatures here reaching the high 100°s. But what they have done is made an effort to relieve themselves of civil liability from foreseen prisoner heat strokes and other illnesses.
I've written a more descriptive account of heat-related problems which can be viewed online without me having to recite it here (see Telford Unit Prisoners Suffer Heat Exhaustion, and also Officials Literally “Blow Hot Air” to Mitigate Heat in Texas Prisons, an article by the journalist Candice Bernd based on reports from Jason and other inmates).
The way in which prison officials are responding to the violation of prisoners' civil rights is what caused the 2016 and 2018 national prison work stoppages – which were nonviolent demands to address forced unpaid prison labor and abuse – and the Cole V. Livingston civil rights suit, which challenged TDCJ's policy on addressing extreme heat living conditions in Texas prisons.
In fact, the way prison guards address such issues is a complete farce and a mockery of U.S. Federal Judge Keith P. Ellison's decision, which stated that current indifference by TDCJ's administration towards extreme heat conditions equaled cruel and unusual punishment.
“Heat illness is a very serious matter in Texas prisons. I am a living witness to these conditions and many other unjust and cruel things that occur daily in Texas state prisons,” said Marcus A. Parker #1770300, an Allred Unit prisoner, who partially based this statement on our mutual experiences at the Ramsey I and Telford Unit prisons. Places where I reported the unjust deaths and beatings of prisoners by ranking guards, and it was through these reports that I suffered reparations in the form of false disciplinary reports, property theft by guards, assault by racist guards and more (see The Anatomy of Abusive Prison Guards and Murder at the Ramsey Unit).
Allred Unit's Protocol on Heat-Restricted Prisoners
While not every aspect of the Cole v. Livingston suit's relief is retroactive and applied to every Texas prison, many of its terms of agreement are, like: respite areas for cooling; cold water access; cold showers and medical assistance for overheating.
These tokens, according to TDCJ's enforced compliance, are supposed to be accessible 24/7, as much as the prisoner needs it, and without them having to show external signs of illness. But the only thing that seems to be available is access to cold water.
In relation to my prescribed PTSD medication, I am listed as a heat restriction prisoner, among many, who are being denied housing in the building designed to accommodate us. In reality, I have been periodically asked if I wanted to take a heat restriction shower, but these showers will only increase the likelihood of a stroke, as the supposedly “cold” shower actually spews forth hotter water than the normal showers do. No respite areas exist either, or if they do, no sign exists pointing us to its location.
In an effort to inform the Psychology Department about this, I sent a request to be seen about having heat-related allergies. I was seen, but my problem went unaddressed. The doctor claimed the computer was down, so he kept me on the same medication and rescheduled me to be seen in ninety days.
Steve DeWayne Odom, another Allred Unit prisoner, suffers from high blood pressure; he's also listed as having heat restrictions and is continuously offered a hot shower when he requests a cold one. His medication calls for him to be given access to air-conditioned housing, but due to that part of the prison being at full capacity, he'll suffer in the summer heat with many others like him.
As a form of convenience, the Allred Unit's administration created their own system as to which prisoners' heat restriction needs will be addressed and which ones won't. Even opening my window to cool down is impractical, as it only allows hot air to enter, along with spiders, mosquitos, ants and roaches. Part of the Cole v Livingston suit required officials to put screens on the windows, but mine hasn't had one since I moved into the cell. Consequently, the window has to remain closed.
Parker, Odom and I are currently assigned to the medium custody building. This means we only get four hours of out-of-cell time a day. The other twenty hours we are in a two-man cell unless we have school or an appointment. At least three times a day the in-cell power outlet goes out is maybe turned off by a guard; it takes several hours for a reboot, during which time we aren't able to use our portable plug-in fans.
If you read my last piece on extreme Texas heat, you understand that officials will outright ignore problems we face and the problems we will face this summer.
Please phonezap the Allred Unit and request an explanation as to why prisoners needing heat restriction housing aren't receiving treatment that has been mandated by the federal courts. And why prison guards that work 7 Building H-Pod routinely falsify state records, claiming that prisoners on the heat restriction list are either refusing or accepting their cold showers, respite and cold water. Demand that these issues by addressed.
Dare to struggle, dare to win! All power to the people!
Jason Renard Walker, 1532092, Allred Unit, 2101 FM 369 N, Iowa Park, TX 76367.
Editor's note: you can contact the Allred Unit at (940) 855-7477. Relevant email addresses are [email protected] (Allred Unit Warden), [email protected] (Regional Director overseeing the Allred Unit), [email protected] (from the Regional Office overseeing the unit), [email protected] (same), and [email protected] (Senior Medical Director), and the TDCJ Ombudsman can be contacted at [email protected]
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C 1746, I declare under penalty of perjury that the following is true and correct:
Heat illness is a very serious matter in Texas prisons (TDCJ/Texas Department of Criminal Justice). I am a living witness to these conditions, & many other unjust & cruel things that occur daily in Texas state prisons. The cells that we are housed in here on the James Allred Unit of TDCJ are 13x8 in size. We are housed with another prisoner that may or may not be able to afford a fan from the unit commissary, thus creating an extremely sizzling situation. We are housed in these cells at least 17 ½ hours throughout a regular day, but sometimes more. The summertime in prison is a task for anybody's physical and mental state. The frustration is a part of it. Because of the lack of air conditioning, this is causing fighting among inmates and inmates falling into an unconscious state. They do have such a thing as heat restrictions that medical assistance provides on your paperwork after you pay a co-medical fee of $100. Once again, most can't afford to pay the co-medical fee. Because they do not pay us for our labor in Texas state prisons, so inmates are left to deal with the heat on their own. Also, the heat restrictions provided by medical grants a “cold shower” to inmates that can afford the fee. The “cold shower” is a pointless move by medical because the water remains hot and above 80°F when you're allowed to take a “cold shower”, whatever that is.
To anybody out there willing to help these heat conditions that we Texas state prisoners are forced to live under, please do so. This matter is very serious and it's hurting, & nearly killing, inmates every year. They keep things such as this under wraps, so the public knows little to nothing about the actual torture we Texas prisoners deal with. I personally am devoting to help this cause. I thank you for your time and your review of my friend Jason Walker and my article. If you are down to help, post location is below.
Marcus A. Parker #1770300
2101 FM 369 N
Iowa Park TX, 76367
I, Steve Odom #1098808, am having problems daily with officers refusing to allow me to go to Medical Dept. Building to cool off in the air conditioning; I'm being denied a cold shower, and the shower water is always extremely hot; also I am denied a cold drink of water from the cooler in the dayroom.
I do take High Blood Pressure Medication and I am on the Heat Restriction list. My medications are: METOPROLOL 50 Mg; ISOSORBIDE MN 30 Mg ER Tablet; ASPRIN EC 81 Mg Tablet; LISINOPRIL 40 Mg Tablet; Diltiazem XR 180 Mg Capsule. I have been denied special housing in ECB Building with other offenders who have heat restrictions like me.
Steve Odom #1098808
2101 FM 369 N
James V. Allred Unit
Iowa Park, TX.