Whether you believe it or not! Some Texas prisoners have gone on a work strike and are proving that they can unite like prisoners in California and Alabama. The last time something this big happened in TDCJ was in the 70’s and 80’s when prison activist David Ruiz successfully filed multiple class action lawsuits that challenged these terrible conditions.
This time the fuss is about fraudulent time credits that we are getting (called Good Time/Work Time) in exchange for our forced labor and good behavior. It’s documented that we are to be given these credits which go towards our early release on mandatory supervision. But mandatory supervision is discretionary.
This means that no matter how many credits we accumulate, the parole board doesn’t have to release us until we complete our entire sentence, or until they’re ready. Everybody knows that this is a scam which is why many are refusing to work.
Throughout the month of April 2016 several media outlets like the Austin Chronicle, Houston Chronicle, gawker.com, newstalk1290.com, and the intercept.com posted articles concerning the strike which started April 4, 2016.
It’s presumed that prisoners refused to leave their cells, which prompted several units to go on lockdown – according to the Austin Chronicle.
Some of the strikers are affiliated with the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) and have released a five-page letter that include these five demands:
1. Meaningful work time
2. Repeal of the $100 medical co-pay
3. Right to an attorney on habeas corpus
4. Creation of an oversight committee for TDCJ, i.e. unannounced inspectors
5. Humane living conditions
In an attempt to prevent other prisons from knowing a work strike exists TDCJ spokesperson Robert Hurst tried to deny that the multi-unit lockdown immediately following the strike had anything to do with it, but then contradicted himself in a statement he sent to the intercept: “TDCJ is aware of the situation and is closely monitoring it”. This monitoring also includes locking down all of the prisons that participate.
On April 11 the intercept released a statement themselves stating that prisoners in Ohio, Alabama, Virginia, and Mississippi became aware of the efforts of Texas prisoners and have begun plans to launch a nationally coordinated workers’ strike on the 45th anniversary of the Attica riots, September 8, 2016.
To prevent the spreading of the strike and other acts of unity, TDCJ added a new rule to their orientation handbook that bans us from having any active social media profiles that are managed by others. This was released in a statement made to the media by TDCJ spokesman Jason Clark on April 14, 2016, and is obviously a baseless reaction to prevent us from using social media to build support. This is what Clark had to say in justification of this rule: “offenders have used social media accounts to sell items over the internet based on the notoriety of their crime, harass victims or victims’ families, and continue their criminal activity.”
I note that selling items over the Internet using any media outlet is legal, not to mention that the ban itself is a violation of our First Amendment rights.
It’s not a coincidence that TDCJ locked down several units within 24 hours following the start of the strike, while quickly enforcing the ban specifically targeting Facebook. It’s clear that officials are using unauthorized power in an attempt to stop Texas prisoners from exposing the conditions in the prison since, in effect, this is what Facebook is doing.
Any prisoner that is caught with an active social media profile on the Internet will receive a level 3 disciplinary case for the first infraction, and enhanced punishment for any subsequent infractions. This rule is very broad, ambiguous, and states: “Offenders are prohibited from maintaining active social media accounts for the purposes of soliciting, updating, or engaging others, through a third party or otherwise.”
The way this rule is wrote gives officials the authority to make it mean whatever they want. This goes to say that they can give me a disciplinary case, or even ban this article, since I am updating and engaging others through a third party via prisonerwriters.com, which puts the otherwise part into question.
TDCJ already faces three lawsuits for the wrongful death of three former Clements Unit prisoners due to their negligence and indifference. This was the result of myself and other prisoners releasing undisputed and detailed reports about what really happened – social media was key to this.
Without the support of the public or social media, we are forced into using the prisons’ own safe channels that are rigged and inadequate i.e. the Unit grievance department and ombudsman. Their methods are ineffective since we are only telling the fox what the wolf is doing.
TDCJ stands for: Texas Department of Criminal Justice; but this department specializes in preventing justice. They use disciplinary rules as a way to discourage some, and punish others, that insist on exposing them.
Texas prison officials are nothing but corrupt scam artists that deceive the public interest by brainwashing them, while making millions of dollars off of our slave labor. The bottom line is: those that work get nothing, while those that refuse get punished until they serve their time, die, or break this modern day slavery.
This is why I support their desire to finally resist this modern day slave labor and I recommend that you do too!
Jason Renard Walker #1532092
9601 Spur 591
Amarillo, TX 79107