Death Row News – April 20, 2018.
LOCKDOWN ON TEXAS DEATH ROW!!!
Every 90 days, Texas death row located on Polunsky Unit is locked down. A lock down is when movement is suspended and death row prisoners are confined to their cells. There is no recreation and prisoners are allowed to shower 3 times a week – Monday, Wednesday and Friday. No hot meals are provided when on lockdown; instead the men are given 3 brown paper sack meals per day that might contain a meat patty between 2 slices of bread, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and maybe a handful of raisins. Meanwhile the guards on Texas death row begin what is called a “shakedown”, starting on one side of the building working their way towards the other side, searching for anything they consider contraband. This search includes prisoners’ bodies and cells.
To be clear, security officials on Polunsky Unit do not give death row prisoners any notice or warning that a lockdown is approaching. From one day to the next, sometimes from one minute to the next, the warden decides we’re going on lockdown and everyone is immediately locked in their cells and every death row prisoner knows what’s coming next – shakedown!
Incarceration is one of the most traumatic experiences any human being can have. When you are put in jail or prison, your individual identity – your name is taken from you and you’re given a number. A friend once asked me, “What can I take with me when I go to prison?!” That question made me laugh because the answer is nothing except your naked behind. When you are locked up, it is the beginning of a fear-based systematic breakdown of who you are and how you have lived your life up until that point. Because for the duration that you’re incarcerated, you are literally at the mercy of your jailers. There is no such thing as privacy when you are arrested and jailed – during the “Bookin” process, you are ordered to strip naked so your body can be inspected for contraband. Your clothing and personal belongings are taken from you and in return you’re given state issued clothing and an identification number. If you refuse this order, the jailers will strip you naked by force so there is no hope of avoiding this extreme invasion of privacy.
One of the worst human rights violations Texas death row prisoners must endure is the invasion of privacy. Lockdown and the shakedown that comes with it is the most extreme form of this violation. We know at some point the guards will come and shake us down and this feeling of impending doom has a terrorizing effect that is intentional on us all. I know personally that I will be made to strip naked and after my body is inspected for contraband I will be handcuffed hands behind my back and removed from my cell wearing only a pair of boxers and plastic shower shows. Everything else that makes up my world is left behind in my cell while I’m locked in a shower on the other side of the pod and an unknown number of unidentified devils go into my cell and proceed to search through everything I own. Now imagine what might happen if one of these devils has a problem with me!
Personally, this is the most difficult invasion of privacy that I have to deal with here. Every time I am shaken down, I lose something. It might be an old magazine, or $100 worth of postage stamps – [Devils steal!]; I just know that I’ll lose something each time I am forced to endure this violation. The reason why this happens is because the guards are told by their supervisors to make sure they take something from every person they shake down as a terror tactic.
The threat of losing something every time these devils come into my private space is anxiety-causing to say the least. And what is anxiety if not the fear of every unknown possibility? And how else can a group of a couple of hundred guards control a group of over 2000 prisoners on Polunsky unit if not by the use of fear and terror tactics?
So all of this is intentional and a mind game with the goal of keeping us afraid so we cannot think of coming together as a group to bring about positive change in this new age death camp.
And we deal with this awful situation every 90 days….
On Wednesday, April 18, 2018, first shift guards arrived at 5:30 AM and instead of setting up recreation for the day, they just walked through doing a security check. From that moment, I knew we were on lockdown and the odds were that this was going to be a long one because this time around general population was slated to be shaken down too.
General population gets shaken down every 6 months which adds some 2,000 prisoners and the entire prison grounds to this process, so it’s safe to say that we’ll be on lockdown for 3 weeks
So these were my thoughts as I got out of bed and made myself a cup of coffee and continued to analyze the situation while listening to the morning news reports on the radio.
The great unknown about this situation is the fact that Texas death row prisoners do not know where the guards will begin the shakedown. Until they suddenly show up on a pod informing the guys they got 15 minutes to get ready, the situation is like a roulette wheel that has been spun, who knows what number the ball will fall on! And it’s a good idea to start getting ready just in case them devils show up on your pod telling you that you have 15 minutes to get ready!
At 8 A.M. the guard working the pod went to the section next to mine and yelled out at them “E-section! Get up and get ready for shakedown! They will be here to shake you down in 15 minutes! Get up and get ready!” My first thought was “Ooooh S@#T!” The next thought was: “I have 2-3 hours before they are here to shake me down!”and I sprang into action.
I had been thinking of what I needed to do to prepare for the shakedown and got right on that. I made sure my name and number were on all my new books, on my postage stamps, envelopes and photos. Then I started throwing out everything I did not absolutely need. I had a few old magazines and newspapers to throw out. All my personal property – books, photos, commissary, etc. must fit into the 2-foot x 4-foot property box they’ll put in my cell for me to pack all my things in.
Meanwhile, they ended up going to F-section to start the shakedown. About 15 minutes after the guard yelled out they were coming, the shakedown team was here standing in the walk space around the control picket and 10 minutes later they went into F-section – ready or not here they come!
While this was happening all the guys who were asleep in my section were suddenly awake asking what was going on?! Believe me, it’s no fun waking up to the news that you are about to be shaken down and have had no time to get ready. We quickly told the guys what was happening and to get ready! Here they come.
4 hours later I was ready. I had packed my property in that damned box and these devils had gotten all the cooperation they were going to get out of me. I laid down on the cold metal bunk and waited on them to come. What’s going to be stolen will be stolen and there’s nothing I can do about it. This was an intense, stress-filled moment for us – one that made everyone feel at minimum anxiety, and maybe even fear. For me, I do not appreciate any kind of situation that has been intentionally created to strike fear in my heart in order to control me. But I took deep breaths and kept telling myself the good thing is that it will be over in a few hours. In a few hours, these devils will be gone and by the look of things they were moving right along, so I’ll make it through no problem. I reminded myself to keep my eyes on the prize! Freedom – and allow nothing to distract me from reaching that ultimate goal.
At 1:30 P.M. the shakedown team hit my section. I was made to strip naked and hand over my boxers and shower shoes for inspection then put them on. After I was handcuffed, they opened my cell door and I stepped out and the supervisor in charge of these devils used a handheld metal detector running it over the front and back of my body, including the bottoms of my feet. Only then was I walked out of the section with the other guys on 2-row, where my cell is at. I was put in a shower in the next section and was left there for 45 minutes while they shook our cells down.
The guards them came back, took me out the shower and escorted me back to my cell.
When I got there, I saw all my stuff in a pile in the middle of the floor. As they removed the cuffs from my wrists I stared at the pile of my belongings and continued to take deep breaths and told myself again, “The good thing it’s over!”
I had survived another shakedown and was very grateful for that. We must always be grateful for the blessings in life – and I was!
Charles D. Flores N° 999299
Texas Death Row
April 20, 2018