by Jason Renard Walker, NABPP Minister of Labor
Despite a rise in murders at the Allred Unit’s close custody building this year, overall conditions haven’t gotten better; they are getting worse.
Around Sept. 25, 2019, in Allred’s close custody building, 31-year-old Delandro Coridro Hamilton was found “unresponsive” in his bunk by staff during the 5:30 a.m. bed book count. His cellmate was on the recreation yard during the discovery.
A white female nurse, who chose to remain anonymous, suggests that Hamilton was killed and had been dead for at least a day. Investigating staff also made this assertion, questioning prisoners concerning Hamilton’s relationship with his cellmate. His release date was Feb. 23, 2021.
Nearly eight months prior to Hamilton’s death, Joseph Oguntodu was found “unresponsive” on his bunk around 6:30 p.m., March 7, 2019. He’d been dead for some time as well. His cellmate confessed to the killing and was the one who brought it to Staff Officer Schmidt’s attention, but only after Schmidt’s security walk-through, in which he never looked in any cells. “Making it look good for the camera,” they call it.
Prisoner has problem with cellmate; prisoner tells guard; prisoner gets killed. This is nothing more than the consequence of officers and ranking staff “making it look good for the camera” during bed book counts, security checks, and periodic walk-throughs.
Had they done their jobs, Oguntodu might still be alive today.
On the morning of March 7, 2019, in the close custody building, then called high security, on D-Pod ECB, I heard Oguntodu tell Officer Haner that his life was in danger; he was told to hold his own and man up.
Hours later, during the 8:30 a.m. bed book count, Haner skipped it to assist a nurse with passing out medication. Killing three birds with one stone, she did both at the same time, simply checking off names even though the prisoner was asleep or had their doors covered.
Oguntodu’s door was covered, his cellmate refused to remove the cover. They were told to uncover the door or forfeit medication. Someone said they’d killed or were going to kill, thus the reason for the covered door. “When I come back, have it done,” Haner said, or words to that effect. She never came back, but she did mark that both complied with the bed book by presenting their ID cards.
Officer Peterson falsely documented the same during the 12:30 p.m. count. The cover remained on the window the entire shift. Both Haner and Peterson were fired.
Close custody housing is designed to house violent prisoners and those whose conduct requires such housing. In fact, an infraction as small as getting caught masturbating on the bunk or being in possession of harmless items can land a prisoner there for at least a year.
And it’s quite common for this custody to be used as a means to house mentally ill prisoners whose condition and mental state is what drew the disciplinary infraction. Even though psych staff and guards deem their behavior too inappropriate to be in general population, they see it as suitable to be in a cell with another man for at least 22 hours a day – that is, if recreation isn’t cancelled for lack of staff.
In the event a prisoner refuses to comply with a staff order, e.g. return a food tray, remove his hand from the feeding port, refuse to uncover the door etc., both prisoners will be gassed, written up, or victimized by a violent cell extraction, as there’s no way to get the refuser to comply without involving the other. Denied meals are also common.
Staff are aware that acts by mentally ill and rebellious prisoners exacerbate cell fights, bullying, extortion and murder. As prisoners who allow or are passive towards this behavior are then preyed upon or tested.
The average prisoners often go to the extreme to avoid close custody. Once housed here, failure to be relieved drives many insane, to where their rational thinking and judgment produce nonsensical actions.
Like one prisoner told me, his focus is going home in less than a year and says he’s doing everything to get there. He doesn’t want to kill or be killed; he just wants to make it to his family. He says close custody worsens those chances.
Proclaiming insanity to avoid torture
Maurice Elmore is a prime example of the lengths one will go through to avoid dying in close custody. He states that he goes home in a matter of months and feels that he will have to kill or be killed because of his failure to be passive towards actions that personally affect him.
First, he simply told staff he preferred to live alone so he wouldn’t have any fights. He was forced to move. Less than 24 hours later, he says he felt delusional and suicidal. He was seen by Psych and denied a program of treatment at the Montford Unit in Lubbock, Texas.
Upon staff’s preparation to move him from 11 Building Transient at Allred, used to temporarily hold those suicidal or in fear of danger, he told Sgt. Barbara L. Atteberry, a white female lieutenant he didn’t know, that if he was forced to live with someone, he would kill them. The white lieutenant joked that since it’s another prisoner, she didn’t give a damn.
He was forced to move under threat of being gassed and beaten by the cell extraction team and was still put in a two-man cell.
He returned to 11 Building the very next day. He sent out a message threatening to escape, with detailed plans. But he wasn’t sent here because of the threat; the 11 Building also houses pre-hearing detention prisoners (PHD), those who picked up a major infraction.
Despite that, he’s still being forced back to close custody. And staff don’t see his threat to escape as reason enough to prevent him from acting on it. Staff know about the perils of close custody and routinely ignore removing prisoners to segregation, short of murder or surviving an attempted murder. Basically, they see the violence and their false ignorance of it as punishment and part of close custody.
A majority of occupants being held in 11 Building are those making a concerted effort to go anywhere other than close custody. And a couple I talked to were near the cell Hamilton died in, witnessed staff’s response, and became frightened.
Elmore suggested that we have to take matters into our own hands; in many ways he’s right. The hard part is getting staff to act on their need of placement.
Self-mutilation, suicide attempts, medication overdosing, and weapon-making are some of the extremes close custody prisoners go to escape or survive it.
All staff members entering or working in the close custody building are required to wear stab-proof safety vests and eye protection. Female guards are assigned elsewhere.
The number of fights between cellmates are common but are rarely reported. It’s mutually understood that witnesses keep their mouths shut, as well as the victims. This goes for sexual assaults, extortion, bullying, and the hi-jacking of another’s meal. In very rare instances, a prisoner in another cell will send a help note out.
This can explain why the attempted suicide rate and refusing cell rate is higher there than any other part of the prison.
Several months back, I overheard several prisoners talking among themselves about unreported murders – those ruled as, or manufactured to be, natural deaths. I asked if they were speaking of Hamilton. They contest that shortly after his death, a prisoner was in staff’s custody, who was later found dead. They spoke of the inconsistencies that made them believe staff murdered the guy and had medical cover it up through paperwork. I was told this had happened many times over the course of years.
Are we reliving the past?
On Jan. 18, 2016, 31-year-old Alton Rogers was found in his bed “unresponsive” at the Clement Unit’s close custody pod. He was covered in bed sores, malnourished, brain-dead and dehydrated, suggesting that he’d been left unattended for some time. I was in the pod across from his, and wrote my first published work on the matter.
An investigation revealed that his cell door hadn’t been open in over one month; his cellmate had purchased items with his ID card (commissary); medical and security staff falsified records pertaining to Rogers; and if they had done their job, Rogers could have been saved.
This common security lapse resulted in the resignation of two acting wardens and the major. None of them faced criminal charges, others involved received minor to no punishment, and only have to worry about a pending civil suit. Rogers lost his life. His cellmate faces felony charges.
For up to one month after the death, staff did everything by the book until it was shown that none would be fired or sent to jail. Then what led to Rogers’ death carried on.
At the start of 2018, Kenneth W. Johnson faced a similar death at the Ramsey Unit. Around Jan. 17, 2018, Johnson was strangled to death by his cellmate, while a guard nearby slept. These conditions were no different than close custody. It was simply a post-close custody, solitary confinement program.
I wrote an article on the subject since the suspect confessed to the crime, and I was in proximity of the incident. Johnson was expected to parole out in less than a year.
This article doesn’t suggest that these few close custody units are the worst in Texas, only that I was around and saw the aftermath of these deaths. If one were to tally the documented assaults going on at each one, then how bad these conditions are, collectively, could be clarified.
Instead of being proactive in preventing unnecessary deaths, staff are always reactive following them. A several-week unit lockdown occurs, in which all of us are fed paltry sack lunches each meal. Then comes the shakedown, which results in some prisoners getting property taken under the “altered” notion. Then it’s back to normal prison life.
But during this dilemma, staff eat customized hot meals in the officer’s dining room (ODR), have light work duties since we are in-celled for each day, and treat the lockdown as punishment for environments that are ignored by the administration, with no post-lockdown strategies to cure the deficiencies that are responsible.
Staged gladiator fights
During the 1990s, the Corcoran Prison in California became infamous for its “gladiator fights” that took place in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) section of the prison. There, guards would set up fights between prisoners, bet on the outcome, and in some cases gun down the fighters as if they were restoring order from a riot, much like how the losing dog or cock in a fight is killed after its owner loses the bet.
During my brief three-month stay in Allred’s close custody, I quickly saw a new style of staged gladiator fights. But here the guards weren’t betting on the outcome of fights, they were simply more intrigued by watching one prisoner maul the other. I witnessed many, but this one stuck with me the most.
On Feb. 24, 2019, around 11:15 a.m., David Morales and Brandon Miner had an altercation and decided it would be best if one or the other moved to another cell. Miner contacted Sgt. Bright, who came to their cell. Bright refused to make any cell move unless the two started fighting. Morales was unwilling to fight, so Bright ordered Miner to attack Morales. Miner refused, unless Morales agreed.
Bright stood at their cell door and continued to coax Miner into striking Morales. “I was on my bunk. The sergeant made me come down to fight or he wasn’t going to do anything about our situation. I had one foot on the stool and one on the toilet when my cellie took off on me,” Morales explained to me in a note.
I watched Bright and a slim white guard who came with him look in the cell staring as bangs and rumbles slammed against my wall. No effort was made to stop the fight, only signs of disappointment once they quit on their own. Bright declared both to be “pussies” for not hurting each other more, and patiently waited for an encore.
Miner was removed from the cell; neither were evaluated by medical staff. Morales wrote an affidavit on the event which I used for a prior published article, “Prisoner found half-dead in bloodbath: Back to TDCJ’s houses of horror and staged gladiator fights.”
More torturous events go on at the Allred Unit. Unfortunately, I can only report what I’m witness to and what co-operating prisoners are willing to tell me.
This has been a very dangerous duty, one that has resulted in me being written up on a variety of false disciplinary cases, assaulted by guards and threatened by their inmate lackeys. Despite this, my writings continue, and as long as I see and hear about injustices going on where I’m at, I will never fear reporting them.
Dare to struggle, dare to win! All power to the people!
Note: Please be on the lookout for my upcoming ebook, “Reports From Within the Belly of the Beast: Torture and Injustice Inside Texas Department of Criminal Justice,” on Amazon and Kindle, and view my website, jasonsprisonjournal.com, to subscribe for free new post alerts.
Send our brother some love and light: Jason Renard Walker, 1532092, Allred Unit, 2101 FM 369 N, Iowa Park, TX 76367.
Jason needs our help
Jason writes in a letter received by the Bay View on Nov. 26: “I was moved to isolation, and all my personal property vanished. I lost my address book with my entire network in it, or someone stole it; then my radio, hotpot, nightlight, multi-outlet plug, Reebok shoes, photos of a friend – her address was in the book – and a lot of other things.”
He wants this message spread far and wide: “I lost all my addresses and need everyone I correspond with or who knows me to resend me their address.” He’s concerned someone may try to “sabotage my contacts’ trust in me.” Let’s hope Bay View readers are not that gullible!