Team One begins this piece by offering our sincere condolences to the family of Mr. Bice and the families of all victims of state negligence and indifference. #PrisonLivesMatter
It was only months ago when the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner issued a statement, noting that prolonged solitary confinement amounts to psychological torture. Be that as it may, that exact form of torture is widely practiced and accepted as the norm in the self-ordained “land of the free.” Solitary confinement in excess of fourteen days has been deemed “prolonged” by the U.N.
Prisoncrats in the state of Texas falsely assert that they do not hold prisoners in solitary confinement. They make this false claim by not counting their restrictive housing ad-seg populations as solitary. However, such a practice is contrary to U.N. definitions on exactly what constitutes solitary. The United Nations deems any confinement wherein the prisoner is held in isolation for twenty-three or more hours a day as solitary. As of August 2019, Texas held over 6500 people under such conditions, illegal conditions, we might add. More than 3000 of those 6500 plus had been in isolation over a year. More than 650 had been in solitary for a decade or more and one hundred forty-five had been isolated more than two decades. Because of this clear and continued arrogant disregard for human sanctity, we say Governor Greg Abbot, TDCJ director Brian Collier, Allred Unit Warden Jimmy Smith and psych staff member Mrs. Cherry are guilty of criminally negligent homicide for the January 18, 2021 “suicide” of Allred restrictive housing (RHU) solitary prisoner, whom the writers only know by the surname “Bice.” We say that the above mentioned perpetrators should be judged by a “Poor People’s Court,” consisting of families who’ve been ravaged and victimized by the genocidal institution that is prison. If found guilty, the punishment shall be the abolition of the TDCJ institution. We call this “justice.”
On January 19, a C.O. McGraw (who found Bice unresponsive) reported to one of the writers that on the day in question, “I escorted Mrs. Cherry to Bice’s door. I heard him tell her three times that he was feeling suicidal. I later learned that he had a history of self-mutiliation and suicide attempts. Mrs. Cherry had that information in her file for the inmate, but she still ignored him. She walked away. I did my rounds every thirty minutes, and on one of them, I saw his feet peaking on the opposite side of the toilet. I asked was he okay. When he didn’t respond, I called it in, but it was too late.”
As we write this piece on February 2nd, Mrs. Cherry is still on duty, a paid representative of the state of Texas and the institutionalized genocide of working class people that is prisons.
It is important here to illustrate the conditions which tragically led to Mr. Bice’s death. As stated in TDCJ’s own “restrictive housing plan,” “Offenders in extended restrictive housing may develop symptoms of acute anxiety or other mental issues.” Therefore, TDCJ brass clearly understands that the basic conditions of this isolated confinement damages human beings, yet they do not care. We say again #PrisonLivesMatter!
From late December until January 31st, the entire Allred Unit was on a “COVID-19 lockdown.” As we scribe this, captives in general population remain on lockdown, while restrictive housing has been let up. This in response to Mr. Bice’s death. However, the public should know that the initial lockdown of the RHU captives was arbitrary and unnecessary, as pods without any positive tests at all were locked down for over a month. Take into account the fact that we, RHU captives, are already “locked down,” not only physically, but intellectually as well. Let’s illustrate further.
TDCJ defies state law, Tx. Gov. Code § 501.009 by refusing to allow all inmates the opportunity to take part in mental/intellectual stimulating programming, which would undoubtedly mitigate some of the pent up “anxiety and other mental issues.” The above government code mandates life skills/job skills/literacy and education classes/parenting/drug rehab/religious courses for all TDCJ inmates. Of course, this law is not being practiced, as the RHU prisoners are routinely discriminated against for their/our social and/or political convictions.
Let’s also take into account that RHU are allowed only minimal phone time (5 minutes weekly). This minimal amount was only made possible as a concession from the administration in response to a Team One instigated mass hunger strike (July 2020). Although TDCJ has approved both video visitation and prisoner friendly tablets as ways to further exploit the monopoly they have on their captives’ lives, RHU prisoners are not allowed access to these communication avenues, thereby further exasperating the psychological and emotional anguish that is solitary confinement (RHU) in general, not to mention during a pandemic.
So Mr. Bice, like over 6500 others held captive in TDCJ’s torture chambers, was left isolated physically, ex-communicated, and intellectually unstimulated. On Jan. 18th, he like others on Allred Unit seg/RHU/solidarity was held on an arbitrary medical lockdown where out-of-cell time was non-existent, besides the occasional shower.
Couple these conditions with the unprofessional and incompetent psych/medical staff and it is no wonder that suicides and suicide attempts have been constantly on the rise in recent years. A close look at Mrs. Cherrys in action is necessary.
On each RHU pod, the admin has designated Cell #7 as a “psych cell.” This means that when psych staff such as Mrs. Cherry come around conducting “evaluations,” the prisoners in question are to be escorted by security staff to cell #7, where Mrs. Cherry or other psych staff can conduct interviews and evaluations while allowing the prisoner the necessary privacy.
The problem is that this is never practiced. Staff are too lazy or, in their words, “too busy” to do these escorts. On January 18th, laziness and incompetence is the only “excuse,” as all Allred inmates were on lockdown and the only activity security staff had to partake in daily for over a month was the serving of food trays.
So here it is that even if Mr. Bice did not mention feeling suicidal, he should have been escorted out of cell and more thoroughly evaluated, per policy.
Furthermore, upon him mentioning suicidal thoughts, Mrs. Cherry was obligated to ensure that Mr. Bice was placed on suicide watch, per policy, wherein every 24 hours he would’ve undergone subsequent evaluations until his suicidal thoughts subsided.
Instead of taking these common sense steps, according to security staff member McGraw, Mrs. Cherry just “walked away.” Again, we say Prison Lives Matter!
In closing, we Tx Team One, a collective of abolitionist and human rights activists, ask that the public demand that Mrs. Cherry, Jimmy Smith, Brian Collier, and Greg Abbot be held responsible for this preventable death. Further, we say that if the lives of those imprisoned by the state have no value, our families, communities and supporters on the outside should join in helping us #FreeEmAll!
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