Cruel and unusual, actually – conditions in Texas prisons mirror Guantanamo bay

Accounts of torture, lack of medical care, deprivation of sleep and food, and unsanitary living conditions at Guantanamo Bay have ignited international demands to close the prison. Organizations like Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union have labeled Guantanamo Bay, “an experiment to see how far a human can be dehumanized before completely losing their sanity”. Reports of violent abuse (e.g. water-boarding, prolonged standing and isolation, no human-to-human contact, exposure to extreme heat and cold temperatures, starvation, physical attacks from prison guards, sexual humiliation, exposure to urine and feces, etc.) abound. Also, it created a sense of unease amongst many American citizens and government officials.

In fact, the Human Rights violations at Guantanamo are so extensive, that this subject became a key issue in the recent U.S. Presidential race. Within hours of taking office, Obama signed an executive order to close Guantanamo Bay.

Now that the International Human Rights community has succeeded in producing awareness of these Human Rights violations at Guantanamo Bay, and President Obama has shown the willingness to address such individually destructive prisons, I must now ask: What about Texas???

Unlike the prisoners who are eventually freed from Guantanamo, and able to offer their accounts of the physical abuse they suffered there, most Texas prisoners are not as fortunate. Consider the story of Larry Lovis Cox, who was an inmate at a Supermax Control Unit in Huntsville, Texas. Mr. Cox was involved in a physical assault with numerous Texas guards, while in hand restraints, Mr. Cox was slammed to the concrete and tossed into his cell, where he laid for two full days in his own feces and urine, screaming in pain for medical attention. Mr. Cox was eventually taken to a local hospital where it was discovered that Mr. Cox suffered two broken vertebrae. Just 13 days after the assault by prison gaurds, Mr. Cox died on February 6, 2007. Two weeks later, a medical examiner ruled Mr. Cox’s death as a homicide, but over two years later, no one has been prosecuted.

We can even examine the cases of Donald Grizzele and Roger Williams. Both were housed on the Supermax Control Unit in Tennessee Colony, Texas. After being confined in sub-standard living conditions that trigger psychosis (e.g. prolonged isolation, insufficient food, exposure to extreme heat and cold temperatures, no human-to-human contact, verbal assaults by gaurds, etc.). Mr. Grizzele and Mr. Williams were denied medical and psychiatric assistance, despite the blatant signs of experiencing mental health problems. Ultimately, their conditions compelled Mr. Grizzele (05-08-07) and Mr. Williams (01-08-08) to commit suicide.

Even before one is ushered to a premature death by the torturous conditions in Texas Prisons, the prison officials obstruct prisoners’ mail to prevent any real public awareness of the torture they are subject to. Currently, at the Lane Murray Unit, a women’s prison in Gatesville, Texas, Dr. Catherine Marston, who is incarcerated there, reported that prison officials are destroying personal mail. Dr. Marston and other prisoners are attempting to inform the general public and their loved ones about an unjust indefinite lockdown that has them confined to their cells 24 hours a day. They are being fed disgusting and inedible sack lunches that lack wholesome and nutritious ingredients. Dr. Marston reports that the prisoners are not being allowed showering opportunities, forcing women to go as long as an entire week without showering. The prison guards are sexually and verbally harassing them at all hours of the night, causing sleep deprivation and countless other psychologically crippling conditions.

The entire prison that I’m currently held in, in Tennessee Colony, Texas, was completely shut down and quarantined for 12 days, due to an unknown airborne virus that sickened a huge number of prisoners. For years, prisoners here have implored the administration to correct the massive unsanitary and deplorable living conditions that have fostered the spread of staph infections, scabies, shingles, flu, stomach viruses and other skin rashes, but it was not until the prison guards fell ill from this recent unknown virus that the prison administration decided to act, and quarantine the unit. The medical department never issued any educational material to make prisoners aware of the nature of this unknown virus or how to prevent them from becoming infected, nor did they inform the prisoners about early symptoms of this virus, making it impossible for prisoners to seek medical assistance, until the virus becomes so evident, and leaves you in a terrible and unhealthy state. The backlog in the medical department causes prisoners to go 6-7 days before being treated for the thriving virus. Prisoners are not issued any cleaning supplies to clean their living areas. Trashcans are being utilized to transport food to serve to prisoners. The kitchen is infested with roaches and rodents. The recreation yards are covered with bird feces. The showers are never sanitized. Mentally ill prisoners are allowed to remain in cells filled with feces and urine.

These Human Rights violations are open and rampant all over Texas prison system. Terrence Hazel, a prisoner at the Eastham Unit in Lovelady, Texas, currently has a Civil Rights lawsuit pending in the United States Districts Court for the Eastern District of Texas, challenging many of these inhumane conditions. The prison Grievance Program and the Office of the Ombudsman, are useless in addressing these violations, so we have to call upon the support of the International Human Rights community. The Grievance Program and the Office of the Ombudsman are established to protect Texas prisons and their oppressive policies. Combine these violations, with the Human Rights violations that are carried out on the Texas Death Row with the legalized murders, the International Human Rights community should scoff at Texas prisons, like they scoffed at the prison in Guantanamo Bay, and demand that someone, even President Obama, step in and correct these Human Rights violations, even if it comes at the cost of closing the entire prison system inside the state of Texas. We can no longer sit pat and expect those in charge here in Texas to police themselves, when it’s clear they have little to no regard for humanity.

Like Guantanamo prisoners, inmates in Texas are being tortured on a daily basis, denied medical care, forced to live in unsanitary and deplorable living conditions and ushered into premature and senseless death. For sheer cruelty, the conditions in Texas exceed Guantanamo’s; they could be better identified with the Gulags of North Korea and Russia, perhaps even Hitler’s Oranienberg. Let’s protest these Human Rights violations, through protesting Texas prisons!!!!

You can write to the author of this article:

Isma’il Abdul Rahman


Robertson Unit

12071 FM 3522

Abilene, Texas 79601 (USA)