By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
Brutality Behind Bars
Breaking bread and spirits: I would like to thank you for this story about the abuse in our Texas prisons ["Contents Under Pressure," by Lauren Kern and Steve McVicker, October 12]. My husband is serving 13 and a half years for a crime he did not commit. He's in the Robertson Unit, a maximum-security prison near Abilene. I hear horror stories from him of what they do to him. The wardens at that unit are awful and do not give a rat's ass about the men in the prison system.
My husband was denied rank three weeks ago after they shook down his cell, broke his glasses, and he got upset and kicked his door. Now, my husband eats what they call loaf, a brick-shaped substance with his whole meal molded together. The other day it came to him with an officer's chewed gum intentionally inside it. Now, he will not eat, for fear of what is in his food.
Don't get me wrong -- there are definitely men who taunt the guards, but no man deserves to be shackled and cuffed and then beaten by guards. I hope that people wake up and realize the problem within our prison system.
Families of the inmates need to make their voices heard. It makes guards know that the inmates have someone standing up for them. And TDCJ Internal Affairs is a big load of crap -- these officers are among other guards; they are just as bad as the rest of them.
Beat over beet: I have befriended several women in Gatesville, and I have been helping them out for years. Through this contact, I have become familiar with much of what happens in the prisons. It's a shame, and I am glad to read your article.
The violence of prison guards is real, and I believe that some of the most violent guards are purposely circulated around different units in order to act as disciplinary forces. This is true not only of the men's units but also of the women's units at Gatesville. A male guard with a violent history recently "body slammed" a female inmate, breaking her leg. This was a nonviolent woman, whose sin was to ask for some beets after the serving line ran out.
I hope that some of these criminal guards are one day locked up where they belong. As your article points out, civil suits are ineffective, and only criminal charges will have any effect. Keep up the good work. The inmates need your help.
Name withheld by request
Whitmire's credibility: Kudos for your article about Senator Whitmire and SCI [Insider, by Tim Fleck, October 5]. Although I'm a lifelong Democrat, and even worked for several years for a Dem mayor outside Texas, I am appalled by Whitmire's story. His version seems so completely unlikely that I am surprised he had the nerve to do an interview with you.
Anyone familiar with the workings of a large law firm would know that the partners routinely meet to discuss each other's cases. It is simply unbelievable to expect that Whitmire wouldn't be aware that his firm represented SCI (which was surely a pretty big client), especially since he was such good friends with its lobbyist. It stinks to high heaven! And his comment about May being a Hispanic woman and his being a Democrat senator is just stupid.
I regret that I don't live in his district and will be unable to vote against him.
No bones about it: Not only do old cemeteries get "lost," they also get moved ["Grave Importance," by Lisa Gray, September 28]. A few years ago there were several old graves on valuable property just west of the British Petroleum Building at 200 Westlake Park Boulevard, near the Katy Freeway. The graves were dug up and relocated. I'm sure it was legal and done with a great deal of respect for the graves and families involved.
This reminded me of the old movie The Loved One. When a cemetery is found to be more valuable as commercial property, the Jonathan Winters character says, "Somebody better get these stiffs off my property!"
Polluter free passes: You pretty much nailed it ["In the (O)zone," by John Suval, September 28]. Too bad the EPA, TNRCC, Houston Chronicle and local television media will not hold the guilty parties accountable. As you stated, the TNRCC is not doing much to crack down on specific polluters in the industrial East End. So what does the TNRCC do? It grandfathers the chemical plants and refineries, making them exempt from most of the proposed regulations.
Our industry and the construction industry in general will have to pay for these exemptions in the proposal to start our workday shift at noon in the middle of the summer heat.
By providing these loopholes to the petrochemical industry and shifting the responsibility to small businesses, the local public in essence subsidizes their pollution output by helping them avoid capital expenditures on cleaning up their plants. Why not make the global end consumers pay for our pollution in Houston?