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?
Independent Electrical Contractors of Greater Houston, general counsel and governmental affairs director
In Hot Water
DeLay the reader? Think you guys really missed the boat with the article on Tom DeLay and his daughter and the hot tub [News Hostage, by Richard Connelly, October 5]. The real story was the one in the Metro section of the Houston Chronicle that says that DeLay claimed to have read a book. I have a very hard time believing such a crock of shit.
Reading any book would probably change his life, let alone a book on Watergate. Let's just hope that ol' Tom doesn't find himself getting in the habit of reading more books. This guy's already such a deep thinker. Before you know it, folks will be making fun of him, calling him names like "Einstein" or "Professor DeLay."
Flawed approaches: I have appreciated both of your articles on CEP ["Learning Curve" and "Making (Up) the Grade," by Wendy Grossman, April 6 and October 5] and how severely it is failing the students it allegedly serves.
I am an attorney who does some work in the Harris County juvenile courts. I can't tell you how many kids I have talked to who are in the CEP program who tell me they have no teachers to help them. If they don't understand the computer program, or have any problem with it that they don't know how to correct, there is no one there to help. Maybe part of the problem is what the kids describe as the teachers never being around. Many of the kids have complained about being in a room all day stuck in front of a computer. I don't know many adults who tolerate such a scenario very well, much less adolescents.
Does this system make sense? These kids are problems in the regular classroom, so we stick them in front of a computer with little or no supervision and expect them to learn. Usually kids who are problems need more one-on-one attention, not less.
These are our school tax dollars at work -- and I don't think we're getting our money's worth -- and these kids sure aren't getting an education.
We'll take only 10 percent: Thank you for writing about Karyn A. Ward in "The Vulture Factor" [by Tim Fleck, March 16].
Some relatives of mine in their seventies received letters from Ward two years in a row, letting them know that they were about to lose over $800 to public agencies if they didn't claim the money. Of course, she wanted her 50 percent.
Our family was baffled as to where the money could be. When I plugged Ward's name into a computer search, I found your valuable article, which mentioned the over-65 homestead exemption. Sure enough, we called the local appraiser, and that's where the money was.
Thanks for getting the word out. We are going to tell other people 65 and over. I sure don't agree with the way the government handles this. Some of these folks on social security have sure been missing out.
Awesome Agnes: As a graduate of Kolter Elementary, T.H. Rogers Middle School, St. Agnes Academy and the University of Texas, I have experienced a healthy variety of Texas education. I enjoyed every minute at St. Agnes ["Going Public," by Melissa Hung, September 28] as well as the much larger and liberal UT-Austin.
I was not stunned or scared, but well prepared for every step.
As for the number of opportunities/ facilities available at private schools, your article mentioned a water polo player having to go off campus for practice. As a St. Agnes water polo player, I can tell you water polo is not offered as a varsity sport in HISD.
Worst of Houston: We often rely on the Houston Press to answer the question "What to do this weekend," but whoever wrote the review of the Sidecar Pub as the Best Live Music Venue [Best of Houston, September 21] should be henceforth assigned to reviewing public restrooms.
As for century-old Belgian chairs, there are only about eight of them, and they're in a side room where you can't see the stage. You say it "holds 300"; the only other place to sit is on a dozen dilapidated backless stools out on the "patio" (read: parking lot).
Not a word we heard in any of the 95-decibel lyrics had more than four letters. Example: "I got to pee, so f*ck you!" And get ready to rub shoulders with a delightful group of goateed skinheads who show more piercings than a wheel of Swiss.
Get real. The Sidecar Pub is a 30-foot by 30-foot mosh pit with expensive drinks. That's okay -- but please call it what it is.
Name withheld by request
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.