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A broken system: Behind the bars of Texas prisons – Part 2: No rehabilitation here

MIKE MCGEE | 2/12/2018, 7:41 a.m.
“I’ve met a lot of people and heard a lot of stories… I’ve seen a lot of bad things and ...
Inmates serve pineapple and lime gelatin at the Lew Sterrett Justice Center in Dallas. Low-level inmates known as trusties prepare food for the Dallas County adult and juvenile facilities. Rose Baca

The financial reward might also inspire other inmates to better themselves with training, she suggested.

Some of the former C.O.’s claims point to what may simply be the results of budget cutbacks. However, other details she provided revealed a segment of correctional officers and higher-ranked personnel who routinely take advantage of their position, ignoring TDC regulations and laws for things as petty as self-importance or as large as personal enrichment.

“Some of the officers there have some, I would say, major egos, and they were there pretty much because they wanted to control people and be mean to people and they knew that rank (supervisors of higher positions) would look the other way and let them be mean to people.”

The offenders who were in Gonzales’ charge ranged from 18 to 80 years in age. Although the racial makeup of inmates in Texas’ correctional facilities indicates there are about three times the number of Black inmates in scale to the state’s Black population, she voiced that at Buster Cole the ethnicity of the population of the unit tended to be “pretty even.”

When it came to race behind prison walls and the officers Gonzales maintained that neglect and inequitable treatment was dispensed in even doses. Although race may play a major part in the social society within prison culture, she indicated the mis-wielding of power by the staff was of a colorblind nature and was often motivated by dollars.

One of the ways control is maintained “on the inside” is by officers writing cases – a recorded infraction on an inmate that can lead to losing privileges, solitary confinement, add time to a sentence, and so on.

“When I first started, one of the sergeants pulled me inside and she goes ‘You need to write a lot of cases, because if you don’t, rank won’t like you,’” Gonzales confessed.“I said, ‘Well, what if they don’t do wrong?’ [I asked, she said,] ‘Well, you write them anyway, for the littlest things. Go ahead and write ‘em.’ she said ‘because this is a private corporation. That’s how we make our money. If they’re given a lot of cases then they’ll get more time, and we can put more charges on them and they’ll stay there longer. And that’s how y’all get paid.’

“So they do write cases on people when they’re not doing anything, yes,” the former TDCJ employee complained.

“A lot of them try to give out cases [write-ups, which look bad come parole time] left and right. They don’t want to see us make parole.” – Excerpt from inmate Renee’s letter.

Twenty cases a week is what Gonzales was told she needed to write. She pointed out that the jail is in Fannin County, what she described as the third most impoverished county in the state.

“So a lot of the people working in those prisons are the local people that their only choice for a job is the prison. They either work for Walmart, Subway or the prison,” said Gonzales, who holds a bachelor’s degree.