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Texas prisoners denied mail as 5,000 are evacuated

August 31, 2017

by Azzurra Crispino and Pastor Kenneth Glasgow

Austin, Texas – Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) is denying Texas prisoners the ability to send or receive mail in light of Tropical Storm Harvey. Although Houston is a major mail hub for Texas, this does not explain why prisoners in areas of the state unaffected by the flooding – for example, Clements Unit in Amarillo – would be denied access to mail.

These prisoners in Rosharon, Texas, where three state prisons were evacuated, board a bus before the flooding. – Photo: Texas Department of Criminal Justice

In a press release, TDCJ stated that five Texas prisons have been evacuated: Ramsey Unit (population 1,688); Terrell (population 1,563); and Stringfellow (population 1,168) in the Rosharon area of Texas; Vance (population 308) and Jester III (population 1,052) located in Richmond, near Houston. Democracy Now! reported that Harris County Jail, located in flooded downtown Houston, has not been evacuated.

As Houstonites and Texans brace themselves for a second round of Tropical Storm Harvey, set to hit Friday, Texas prisoners are unable to communicate with their loved ones. Inmates who were moved should be able to use the phone system to place calls. For those designated in administrative segregation, only legal phone calls are available.

However, most of the units close to the storm are on lockdown, which means no prisoners may receive visits or make phone calls. Although ALL TDCJ mail services have been suspended, those evacuated to a different unit should have their mail addressed to their evacuation location because their mail will not be forwarded.

Prisoners were evacuated by bus while shackled and were most likely unable to bring any of their belongings, as they were not given sufficient warning to evacuate. Although the Ombudsman’s Office told us inmates would be able to file a Step 1 Grievance for replacement of damaged property, they would not state that this property would be replaced.

Family and friends can check on incarcerated loved ones by calling the Ombudsman’s Office, which has opened a 24-hour hotline at 936-437- 4927 or by checking TDCJ inmate locator website, as they claim the inmate location will be updated upon arrival at the new unit.

As Houstonites and Texans brace themselves for a second round of Tropical Storm Harvey, set to hit Friday, Texas prisoners are unable to communicate with their loved ones.

Hacktivist and political prisoner Jeremy Hammond, discussing his experiences being locked down during Hurricane Sandy, states: “Very frightening to consider what would happen to us prisoners – already disenfranchised, silenced, marginalized and forgotten – in the event of a more devastating natural disaster. There’s a universal consensus here – they’d probably leave us to die.”

He elaborates, “As the climate continues to change due to capitalism’s rampant destruction of the environment, we can expect more frequent and devastating natural disasters on the way [flood victims are] experiencing that often the most effective relief does not come from the city, police or FEMA, but from grassroots community groups … working together in solidarity with those most affected.”

Contact Azzurra Crispino of Prison Abolition Prisoner Support (PAPS) at iheartpaps@gmail.com or 512-710-PAPS; and contact Pastor Kenneth Glasgow of The Ordinary People Society (TOPS) at topssociety@yahoo.com or 334-791-2433.

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