Extreme heat and overcrowding make Texas prison hell

Protest-against-Texas-prison-heat-071823-outside-Capitol-in-Austin-by-Sergio-Flores-Truthout-1400x932, Extreme heat and overcrowding make Texas prison hell, Abolition Now! World News & Views
“They’re cooking our inmates in the Texas prison system,” said the mother of a prisoner whose son died from the heat, quoted by CBS News in a July 19, 2023, story headlined, “Texas says no inmates have died due to stifling heat in its prisons since 2012. Some data may suggest otherwise.” In the 70% of Texas prisons that are not air-conditioned, including Coffield, Texas’ largest prison, the heat often exceeds 120 degrees. This is a July 18 protest outside the Capitol in Austin. – Photo: Sergio Flores, Truthout

by the Coffield Improvement Committee

We are human too!

This is a call to all God-fearing people to call on the Texas Legislature to convene a Special Session to correct a potentially lethal situation here on the Coffield Unit.

The Coffield Unit was initially designed to house 2,000 men. However, at last count there were 4,300. This creates an environment of absolute chaos.

Prisoners are crowded into dayrooms for hours at a time after meals and showers without adequate access to toilet facilities. The dayrooms are equipped with only urinals. This has resulted in men defecating on themselves, or defecating in sacks or on paper or items of discarded clothing, then throwing it out the window.

Another issue is sleep deprivation. Due to the constant slamming of doors, count times, showers and other penal activities, it is impossible to get a decent night’s rest. 

Also, the dining hall is a powder keg. It is often filled to max capacity without any observable security, with men jumping line, purchasing contraband food and conducting all types of side deals. 

Outside recreation is nearly nonexistent. The overcrowded showers, dayrooms and dining hall would be unbelievable to the average observer. Whenever there are important visitors to the unit, it is guaranteed the unit will be placed on limited movement, suspended activity, or full lockdown in order to conceal the chaotic nature of daily operations. There is a sophisticated camera system installed in the unit that would verify the truth of all of these claims.

Another extreme situation is the heat, which is exacerbated by the unjust section lockdowns. To explain, due to the age of Coffield [built in 1965] and the fact that it is in disrepair, prisoners have figured out how to manipulate the locking mechanisms on the cell doors. Because security staff cannot stop this from happening, they will retaliate by placing those sections on lockdown for several days and subjecting them to the extreme heat, sack meals and extreme cell searches.

This is an extreme security risk, which could easily lead to a massive riot, which the “shortage of staff” will not be able to maintain. This is not to mention the extreme and oppressive conditions the men in Ad Seg, or “Restricted Housing,” experience on a daily basis. 

It is common for these prisoners to go days on end without showers or recreation. They are frequently denied drinks with their meals. Their manner of being fed is totally against policy and food service standards. For example, the SSIs (i.e., the janitor prisoners) are allowed to feed them without security staff present. This means that those prisoners whose food tray slots are not opened or rigged must receive their food trays underneath the rusted and corroded cell doors. 

It is common for fires to burn and smolder on the run for hours at a time without any attempt at putting them out. Nevertheless, they are unsuccessful at gaining the attention of the security staff. 

Manipulating the locking mechanisms is also a phenomenon in Restricted Housing. There have been recent incidents of prisoners popping out of their cells stabbing prisoners, dashing other prisoners with feces and urine. There was recently a prisoner who got out of his cell and hit an officer in the head with a fan motor, causing him to be sent out in an ambulance.

As a proposed solution, we duly implore you to convene a Special Session to reduce the Coffield population by releasing those prisoners with 20 years or more completed on their sentence and who have received more than one parole set-off. This will aid in making the unit into a single-cell unit as it is being reported to be. 

The living conditions here on the Coffield Unit are unconstitutional and in total violation of the Eighth Amendment. The SPCA would not allow dogs to be housed as we are here on the Coffield Unit. We implore you to come and see for yourselves!

Sincerely requested,

Coffield Improvement Committee

Send these brothers some love and light by writing to Norris Hicks, 505593 (chairman of the Coffield Improvement Committee), or Willie E. Nix, 2158831, Coffield Unit, 2661 FM 2054, Tennessee Colony TX 75884.