TEXAS Hungerstrike Beginning Early
Gerald Williams # 791309 Hospitalized
conditions of the Segregation Unit in the prisons of our nation and
worldwide are cruel and unusual punishment. These conditions have
prompted many throughout history to stage hungerstrikes in order to
protest inhumane treatment and to bring to the attention of the public
and media what goes on behind the razor wire. Many of our poor people
of all races are housed in seg. Many have died fighting for their
rights. This is an important issue to confront to people who are in
support of prisoner rights, Native rights, indigent rights, human
The hungerstrike in Texas that was slated to run parallel to the Attica Uprising Anniversary of September 13, 1971 has already begun. Commencing with the hospitalization of Gerald Williams # 791309 / Eastham Unit / POB 16 / Lovelady, TX 75851. He has refused his meals in a deathfast to protest the medical department's denial of treatment for his Hepatitis C (the silent killer) and for segregation conditions of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice system. He was transported for emergency medical reasons 7-18-01 after 12 days of refusing his meals. He would not have been transported unless his medical condition were serious.
Gerald writes, "...I am doing time in a Texas prison. I haven't been wrongfully convicted of any crime but I am being wrongfully convicted to die. I have been diagnosed in having Hepatitis B and C. Hepatitis C is a blood borne pathogen. It is spread in the same way that HIV is spread. The combination of two drugs [to help in the treatment] will cost TDCJ approximately $2000 per month, which they do not want to spend. Considerations for control of this virus is prevention -- something TDCJ knows nothing about. Exposure to blood and body fluids must be safeguarded against in order to prevent contracting HCV. TDCJ does not enforce that their barbers put their clipper blades in a solution approved for destroying viruses. My wrists were bleeding from the edges of the handcuffs. Not 10 minutes later they are placed on another inmate and the handcuffs repeat it all over again.
I believe to bring about change there must be some form of sacrifice. So I hold this pen. I have given myself over to this sacrificial role. As of 7-7-01 I have refrained myself from eating. I will continue to do so until changes are made and kept. I will not stop until those of us who have HCV receive the proper medical treatment. Maybe my hungerstrike may not bring change but I will rest in peace knowing I tried.
I urge you to shed a tear for those who are dying behind the cold and uncaring walls of prison. Those who died in the struggle to bring about change. I ask to shed a tear for those who are still fighting, suffering from the countless atrocities commited by those who are given the job to watch over us, to heal us not kill us!. If such a tear still can be found call it a tear of knowlege, if you will, for knowing the source of our ills is the initial step towards a solution..."
Hawk, (Sid Byrd #872404 / POB 16 / Lovelady, TX 75851-0016) who initiated this Texas Hungerstike, is taking only 1 meal a day. He writes on the conditions of seg:
TEXAS PRISON HUNGER STRIKE -- SEPTEMBER 13th, 2001
STATEMENT OF THE FACTS
reason it has become necessary to go to the extremes of organizing
a mass hunger strike concerning the existing conditions in segregation
is because normal avenues of rebuttal have become non-existant. The
institutional administrations have ignored our complaints. We therefore
have no other option other that peaceful protest which we pray will
draw the media and political attention that will resolve many of these
issues that the prison officials have flagrantly disregarded.
The issues listed herein should be given attention and detailed response. These points are logical and deserve individual redress. They should be taken into consideration based upon their impact as they apply to all prisoners throughout the system.
The current existance within seg. fails to provide any possibility of advancement in the quality of the prisoner's life. The existing behavioral modification system known as LEVEL ONE, TWO and THREE are established to take away what little the prisoner has as a threat to control them, rather than offer something that would in effect create a desire in the prisoner to better one's self. The only benefit gained from being on the level that is considered the best, (LEVEL ONE) is the privilege of being able to puchase items that are sold by the prison commissary. If a prisoner is indigent and does not have anyone to provide him with financial support (the prison does not pay inmates in Texas) he has no reason to maintain a positive behavior. And under the existing conditions, discipline problems are rampant because of this very issue. The calloused attitude of spite exhibited by the prison officials has gone too far.
Nothing is being offered to the prisoner to better their living conditions. His / Her life is an uneventful madness that only changes as the mental and emotional stress is expressed in fits of explosive rage by prisoners randomly throughout the cell blocks. Solitary confinement with no positive input works to slowly deteriorate the inmates' minds. It seems that the officials do not care about this at all.
There should be an advanced level that prisoners can work toward. Inmates that face long term isolation, because of supposed security issues that have no basis to support current risk assessment, should be able to advance to a level that they can forego the use of hand cuffs as well as leg irons. [editor's note: prisoners in seg can only be moved about if they are handcuffed and leg-ironed first, for example, if they are being moved for a visit with family or friends, unlike main population.] If an inmate has shown a willingness to behave he / she is deserving that treatment. These men and women are going to one day be released back into the community. Society will not be prepared to deal with them and no one will be around to supervise them.
The prison system is paid millions of dollars by the tax payers to deal with the risks that are part of the prison environment. Yet what the prison system has done is bend every rule that they have in their power to create a risk-free environment for them to work in. This is at the expense of not only the tax dollars they spend, but it will be at the expense of the tax payer having to deal with the monsters the prisons are creating through the inhuman treatment that they are doling out. The officials may wish to avoid all risk. Though they are doing this by treating prisoners less than human. That is counter productive to every aspect of the intended purpose of the prison as a whole. And it is in violatation of the judicial system which they are not only empowered by, but an arm of.
The following are things that the administration can provide to all prisoners in seg. that will not only function as behavioral incentives, but will instill the desire and willingness to exhibit a decent attitude (because of the decency he / she is being shown). These are not issues that we feel need to be argued over. They are rational improvements that deserve immediate attention.
The contact visit does not only serve the prisoner. It is also very beneficial for the families of the person that is incarcerated.
Contact is something that, if it can be afforded, then all effort should be made to do so. It is inhumane to deny a mother the touch of her son, or the son his child, or a husband his wife. Some of these men and women in prison are facing decades of incarceration and under the existing circumstances they have no hope for even the touch of a loved one ever again. Not even the hug of a mother that is sick and ailing. And the reality that she will pass on before the prisoner is released is a cold and cruel thing that is totally uncalled for.
The use of the phone has been denied to all segregation inmates except in emergency cases of a death in the family, or someone that is very sick. And this emergency call is almost impossible to acquire because of the complicated chain of command approval that is necesary in order to receive this privilege. This is an issue that has no justifiable logic. It should be changed. We are not only prisoners. We are also human beings that have lives that go on outside of these walls and bars. And some of those that are in prison cannot receive visits because of the distance and transportation problems of the loved one. The phone is the only means that they could possibly have contact other than by delayed mail.
I think that this issue is obviously clearly something that has, like many other things, been created because of only one side of the danger being taken into consideration. The administration hs failed to force the officers to pass out cleaning supplies. The real problem is not an issue of security, but one that involves the guards' work load. They must go to each cell and issue these items and stand there while the prisoner uses them. It takes alittle time but anything they can deny us, in order to avoid any form of work, they will do. This is not only wrong, it is flagrantly illegal.
All units should be made to use steam lines that will allow the food to be prepared on the cell block at the time of feeding. The use of the hot boxes and preparation of the food, hours before serving is prone to continuous problems that are unavoidable. Food is a very important issue to prisoners and has been the cause of many prison revolts. Decent meals and hot properly prepared trays mean alot to a prisoner.
Every day the prisoner deals with a totally differnet set of circumstances.There are no normal times for anything. Not even for sleep. Being fed breakfast in the middle of the night and then offered recreation or shower at 6:00am when the prisoners are just geting to sleep is a major problem. The guard expects the inmates to be awake and ready to go at all times for rec. or shower. And they will pass up the prisoner's cell if they are not. The three things that they do provide daily are the food, and a one hour recreation time and a shower. They attempt at all times to avoid doing these things if at all possible.
The grievance officer is a guard and an employee of the prison system. Therefore he is not impartial and under the existing grievance process he has failed to establish any respect from the prisoners that have attempted to use this system to seek redress.
The officials have abandoned any concerns toward the prisoners' growing complaints. That is something that has created very costly repercussions in the past. And it is the failure of the grievance system that is directly responsible for what we have now. A hunger strike because the administration has failed to address things that are clearly in need of correction. Many times a majority of inmates will not have the desire to go to the extremes of sacrifice in order to get their point across. They are sometimes taken as weak and the conditions worsen. They feel that there is nothing they can do that will bring about change. But then there are a few that do not care about anything other than change. Some of these men and women are facing forever in these prisons and they are not going to just do nothing and accept things that are wrong. We ask to be treated with respect. And as human beings.
There are many other issues that need immediate attention, such as religious rights. And this is only a basic list of a few. Prisoners on every unit have their own circumstances that each warden can respond to. But what is important is that the system understands that these are not frivolous things that are without merit. They are also not going to go away by themselves.
It is simple to disregard the human rights of those that are held in bondage. It is easy to deny dignity and respect to prisoners that are often incarcerated only because they failed to be able to afford a better form of justice.
Prison officials have been given charge of individuals that the courts have sent to them in the hopes that they can be corrected and can be returned to society and function as better people after the experience. The reality is far from this point. We all know that.
Yet one thing is very clear: Prisoners are not sent to prison for punishment. They are sent there as punishment. The prison officials must understand this before there is ever going to be any hope of correction or rehabilitation. The existing conditions are so bad that the possibility of positive change is so slight that it is almost non-existant. Housing humans like animals is in no way right or beneficial to the prisoner or the society that he will one day return to.
September 13th, I will begin a death fast.
Prisoners all over Texas that are housed in segregation and high security units will refuse the food that is provided by the Texas Prison System. I along with these men, and yes, women too, will go hungry. Some of us like myself will set our hearts and minds on going even further than just a hunger strike. We will look at this as a DEATH FAST.
I feel that I have nothing else to live for under the existing circumstances. I have reached a point where I am willing to risk my life to bring about changes we need within the Texas Department of Corruption.
Why is this dire task necessary -- you may be wondering? Why would human beings make a deliberate decision to place themselves in harm's way? To actually put themselves, their body and physical well being in jeapardy. Even their lives.
We are going to go hungry because our treatment and conditions are not only inhumane, but they are even deemed unconstitutional by the Federal Courts Eastern District of Texas.
Prisoners in solitary confinment throughout Texas are kept for years; even for decades with no concern for their mental or physical well being. These conditions are undeniably counter productive to any intent to correct or rehabilitate.
I'm going hungry because I do not wish to live like we are being forced to live. Starvation and death is an acceptable outcome vs. the continous mental madness and total isolation we face daily. Our conditions are no better than being held in a TOMB.
Many men and women have reached the breaking point unconsciously and resorted to extreme and often fatal actions. These conditions create mentally deteriorating circumstances which result in depression so severe that prisoners cut themselves up, slash their wrists and arms, and have even cut their own throats.
Many are found hanging from the cell bars. A friend of mine here at the Eastham Prison on January 1, 2000 hanged himself. He begged to be let out of seg. He was screaming that "They were coming to get him". He told them that it was all their fault. He had literally lost his mind from long term solitary confinemnet. They laughed at him. Told him not to worry because nobody was gonna get him. It was a joke to the guards and also to the medical staff. They did not care about him. And to them he was actng normal IN HERE. My friend Houston Martin hanged himself on New Years morning of 2000. No one knows, so no one cares.
What must we do? What will make them listen? Why does no one care? Because they have hidden us behind an iron curtain so that no one really knows what goes on. How many others like Houston Martin must die in these lonely cells where they have thrown us away? How many more men and women will lose their minds because they cannot take it any more?
I am going hungry because I am willing to put my life on the line by my own choice. I am making this decision while I can do so consciously. Because I do not want to lose my mind and end up taking my own life like Houston and so many others have done.
Those who have committed suicide have done so to escape the literal hell they have turned these places into. Texas is far below the federal standards and it is long overdue that something is done to correct this problem. They have a saying here in isolation when an inmate is found dead or self mutilated in their cell: IT'S ONLY AN "ISOLATED" INCIDENT.
--- The End ---
SAMPLE LETTER OF SUPPORT:
Re: Hungerstrike in the Segregation Unit
Dear Warden Stacks:
I have carefully studied Sid Byrd's # 872404 "Statement of the Facts" regarding the conditions in the segregation unit. It seems very reasonable to me that alot can be done to rectify this unnecessary situation without having prisoners endangering their lives by going without food. Before it gets to this please work on getting better living and medical conditions for the prisoners there at your prison. A few areas that desparately need change include:
allowing contact visits with family and loved ones
As a reasonable outsider, I do not see how any of the aforementioned could possibly be a security risk especially when they are already housed in high security.
Also I would like to bring to your attention that Gerald Williams # 791309 has been hospitalized. He has been refusing his food for 2 weeks protesting the lack of proper medical care regarding his HCV.
Thank you for your immediate attention to this life-threatening hunger strike situation.
OTHER THINGS WE CAN DO TO HELP:
Contact & sponsor prisoners on the following list in order to
List of Hunger Stike Participants @ Eastham Unit / POB 16 / Lovelady, TX 75851
Williams # 791309 [hospitalized]
List of Hunger Stike Participants @ Other Units TX Statewide
Unit / Rt 2, Bx 4400 / Gatesville, TX 76597
1. Unit / 1100 FM 655 / Rosharon, TX 77583
High Security / 1313 County Rd. 19 / Lamesa, TX 79331-1898
Unit / 2101 FM 396 N. Iowa Park, TX 76367
Unit / Huntsville, TX 77349
Unit / POB 4500 / Tennessee Colony, TX 75886
Unit / 3001 S. Emily Dr. / Beeville, TX 78102
Unit / 9601 Spur 591 / Amarillo, TX 79107-9690
Row Terrel Unit / 12002 FM 350 S. Livingston, TX 77351
High Security Unit / Huntsville, TX 77320-9999
Unit / 59 Darrington Rd. / Rosharon, TX 77583
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