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A settlement has been reached in the Pack Unit lawsuit, and air conditioning will be installed temporarily during the summer months, until the Texas legislature allocates funding for the installation of permanent AC units. Last year, I attempted to file a motion on behalf of myself and all Texas prisoners who are similarly situated to the prisoners at the Pack Unit. The Texas Civil Rights Project, based out of Houston, requested that I withdraw the motion because it had the potential of delaying relief for Pack Unit prisoners.
A federal judge in Houston ordered a geriatric prison in Texas to help inmates overcome extreme heat and rising summer temperatures, referencing climate change in a groundbreaking ruling this week. U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison deemed it cruel and unusual that state corrections are aware of dangerous and lethal heat risks – at least 23 men in Texas prisons have died from the heat in the last 20 years – yet have failed to impose safeguards.
In an amazing and quite shocking turn of events, federal Judge Keith P. Ellison from the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, has ORDERED the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to install air conditioning at the Wallace Pack Unit, located in Navasota, Texas. The prison agency has 180 days to comply. Most of this ongoing struggle for human rights has been published right here in the San Francisco Bay View, but please allow me to refresh your memory.
So let’s take a look at the work we are doing: 1) attempting to amend the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, 2) abolishing prison slavery and, in my case, 3) exposing the pervasive problem of toxic water supplies in Texas and Pennsylvania! Yes, I did say Pennsylvania! We have seen retaliation and obstruction of justice tactics by employees of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
On Nov. 10, 2016, the state of Texas transferred me and 43 other men to the Administrative Segregation Unit at the Eastham Unit in Lovelady, Texas. Eastham is one of the oldest units in the state. The conditions there are much worse than at the Telford Unit. The most glaring issue for prisoners and guards alike is contaminated drinking water! High levels of copper and lead have been found in the water supply. The water has a horrible stench to it. And the taste? absolutely repulsive!
Environmental injustices are forced upon people of color and disadvantaged minorities. This is a fact and not a subjective feeling or statement. Prison officials and ACA inspectors attempt to cover up and downplay the fact that numerous Texas prisons have contaminated water supplies and Texas Correctional Industries employees force prisoners to work in toxic environments. Does anyone think the U.S. government will intercede on our behalf?
In the September 2015 edition of Prison Legal News, Panagioti Tsolkas of the newly formed Prison Ecology Project wrote a scathing article that shed light on a serious problem at a prison located in Navasota, Texas. Dangerous levels of arsenic have been found at the Wallace Pack Unit. “How could the American Correctional Association continue to give Wallace Pack Unit passing marks and rave reviews if the drinking water is contaminated with poison?”
Greetings, brothers and sisters. This year in Texas we have seen a marked increase in the exposure of heinous acts of abuse and mistreatment perpetrated by state employees who work for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Behind the scenes, the prisoners responsible for this massive movement to combat injustice have become victims of retaliation and harassment at the hands of prison officials and, elected state government officials.