The mission statement of Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) lists their mission statement “to provide public safety, promote positive change in offender behavior, reintegrate offenders into society, and assist victims of crime.” (http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/) Why then, has Texas deemed it necessary to cage many of their inmates in, what they call, Administrative Segregation (also known as Ad Seg)?
Administrative Segregation is TDCJ’ s answer to the gang problem in Texas prisons. It is the worst kind of racial profiling. TDCJ takes people that they consider a STG, or security threat group, and puts them in Ad Seg. Ad Seg is basically solitary confinement. It is touted as being a way to protect the prisoners and staff of Texas prison gangs by keeping them out of general population. (http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/cid/Pamphlet-Narr%20Form-09-07.PDF)
Administrative Segregation is listed as “non-punitive” which means it is not a punishment, but supposed to be used as a preventative measure. However, in Texas prisons, Ad Seg is used as punishment. For an inmate in Ad Seg, there are no rights. As one Seg inmate puts it, “The idea is to reduce direct, physical contact with guards or other inmates to zero.”
They do not get to eat with the other inmates, they eat in their cells. Usually, by the time they get their food, it is cold. The only time they leave their cells is when they go to recreation or to take a shower. And some days, they don’t even get showers. But when they do, those are cold too, even in the winter time. They are stripped searched before leaving or entering their cells. The guards in Ad Seg are more heavily armed than any other officer in the prison since the inmates in Ad Seg are supposed to be vicious murdering criminals, when in reality, most in Ad Seg are there because of being a STG.
Inmates in Ad Seg do not get contact visits with their family. This means that their families get to talk to them through a 4 inch piece of plexi -glass. They never get to hold their children or hug their wives or mothers. They are not allowed phone calls. They are, however, allowed one book a week from the library. They are not allowed to work. They are also not allowed college courses unless someone from the outside pays for it for them. They are considered dogs in a cage. A cage within a cage. (http://www.amren.com/ar/2009/11/index.html)
Regular inmates are afforded these luxuries. They are allowed phone calls and contact visits. They are allowed regular recreation times and get to interact with other inmates and go to school and have jobs. Even people on death row in Texas are allowed phone calls, though they are minimal.
When an inmate who is in segregation is up for parole, they will be denied. There is no possibility of parole for a STG member. One of the first questions a parole board member will ask is “What have you done to better your situation?” Since the STG member has no access to school, jobs, or anything positive, the resounding answer is “Nothing.”
There are only two ways to get out of Ad Seg; do your time and go home or go through the GRAD program. The GRAD program stands for Gang Renouncement and Disassociation program. It is not easy to get into. There is a two year review process in which the inmate tells the prison officials they do not want to be part of the gang. It is an intensive investigation process in which the prison officials go through the inmates mail looking for contact with other gang members or coded messages to intermediaries. They go through the inmates belongings, tearing up their cells and property looking for gang paraphernalia or contraband. If they come across anything even remotely in question, you are out of the program and back to segregation. (http://www.amren.com/ar/2009/11/index.html)
If the prisoner does make it through the two year process, it is then an eighteen month program for them to get out. 9 months of that ,in addition to the two year waiting program, the inmate is still in segregation.
So where is the hope for a better future when TDCJ uses Ad Seg to doubly punish the inmates? How is any inmate supposed to better themselves or their life if they are held back by what is essentially a protective measure? A majority of gang members in prisons are not associated with gangs when they first go into the prison system. However, race relations and self preservation almost require that they join a gang upon entering prison. (http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/cid/Pamphlet-Narr%20Form-09-07.PDF)