New TDCJ visitation/mail policies punitive and arbitrary

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is changing its visitation, mail and commissary policies for Texas prison inmates in ways which seem arbitrary and unnecessary.

Let’s start with visitation. TDCJ will begin running a drug-sniffing dog past all potential visitors, even children, and deny entry if the dogs alert. If a dog alerts twice, that person will be denied entry permanently.

The move is being billed as preventing contraband smuggling, but that doesn’t justify it. For starters, nearly all the contraband smuggling is done by guards, and the biggest problem is the agency can’t fire them because they wouldn’t have enough people to staff the prisons.

Consider this example from the French Robertson Unit in Abilene last year:

A list obtained by KTXS from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) said that 51 French Robertson Unit staff members were disciplined and one of those staff members was fired for bringing in contraband between January 1, 2013 to July 3, 2019, a six-and-a-half-year span.


The TDCJ also said that out of the 400 staff members at the French Robertson Unit, the number of contraband disciplines “are below average for disciplinary action and contraband issues as compared to the other 103 state prisons in Texas.” 

So one staffer out of 400 was fired for bringing in contraband to the prison, while 51 were allowed to continue working there. And that’s “below average” for other units. So it takes a lot of chutzpah for TDCJ to blame families for contraband! That’s absurd.

Anyway, why not just run the drug dog past inmates before they go back to their cell, or search them, for that matter, if need be. If you’re trying to find contraband, the policy makes no sense.


Theophalis Wilson Exonerated After 28 Years in Pennsylvania Prison

Theophalis Wilson was released on Tuesday after a Philadelphia court vacated his wrongful conviction and dismissed all charges against him. He is the 12th person exonerated by District Attorney Larry Krasner’s Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU).

Mr. Wilson was arrested and charged with murdering three people in North Philadelphia when he was just 17 years old. Mr. Wilson and his 29-year-old co-defendant, Christopher Williams, were convicted in 1993. Because he was under 18, Mr. Wilson was automatically sentenced to life imprisonment without parole; Mr. Williams was sentenced to death.

As the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, the prosecution’s case turned on the testimony of James White, a six-time convicted first-degree murderer who claimed to be an accomplice in the murders. Prosecutors admitted in a court filing in 2001 that they had no case against Mr. Wilson or Mr. Williams “unless the jury believed White.”

At a 2013 hearing in Mr. Williams’s case, James White admitted that he lied at trial in exchange for a plea agreement to avoid the death penalty. Forensics experts also testified that the physical evidence discredited Mr. White’s story that the three men were shot and pushed out of a moving van. The court granted Mr. Williams a new trial because his trial lawyer failed to present this expert evidence, which “would likely have changed the jury’s mind” about believing Mr. White and resulted in acquittal.

But even after its crucial witness was completely discredited, the District Attorney’s Office planned to retry Mr. Williams. In response to pretrial discovery requests, prosecutors steadfastly refused to turn over their case file to the defense. READ THE REST

45 Florida inmates complete CDL training behind bars

The inmates spent hundreds of hours training to pass the CDL course. December 27, 2019

45 Inmates

Dozen of inmates at a Florida prison were recognized for completing their Commercial Drivers License (CDL) training at a recent graduation ceremony.

On December 20, the Santa Rosa Correctional Institution held a graduation ceremony to honor the accomplishments of 45 inmates who graduated from the popular truck driver training program.

The Secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections Mark S. Inch was on hand to attend the graduation ceremony.


MY CLIENT, TRAVIS RUNNELS, DID NOT DESERVE TO DIE. The death penalty is the rot at the core of our culture and our values.

The Texas death chamber is painted teal, like a doctor’s surgical scrubs. The tiny room, barely large enough to hold the gurney that my client Travis Runnels was strapped to, was antiseptic in its cruelty. Travis was already in position when my co-counsel Janet VanderZanden and I, along with three of Travis’s close friends, entered the cramped observation room. Travis was alone in the death chamber on the other side of the plexiglass, lying prone with his right arm held out to his side, and a needle in his skin ready to fill him with poison. A microphone hung from the ceiling just above his head, ready to record his last words, but Travis refused to participate in that grim ritual.

Travis instead spent his final moments sharing a kind smile and mouthing “I love you” to his friends. His final actions reaffirmed what he had already told us: that he had been strong to the end, that our lives would go on, and that he would no longer have to bear the torture of isolation on death row.

This was classic Travis. He had been sent to death row for killing Stanley Wiley, a factory supervisor at the prison where Travis was serving a 70-year sentence for robbery. Since landing on death row, however, he changed his life around. READ THE REST

I am not troubled about the fact that you or your loved one may be guilty of the crime that you or they are in prison for.

After doing a number of projects through VTTV, I’ve noticed that occasionally the loved ones of supporters of people who I’ve been asked to create platforms for get very concerned and sometimes frankly obsessive about communicating to me of either the innocence or the unfair prosecution of them or their loved ones.

To that I say first, I never have to be convinced of the unfairness of the American court system.

The second thing I need to communicate is that at least a quarter of the people we have helped are very open about their guilt, sometimes they have told me this while on death row, and while admitting guilt of honestly heinous crimes.

To be totally blunt, and for my own reasons that I’m not going to bother to explain I honestly don’t care about the fact that many of the people I help are guilty of the crimes they are in prison for.. it will not stop me from helping anyone and I have never yet refused to help someone because of their crime.

The only thing that would immediately stop from helping someone is if the platform I created for them was used to further harass , stalk or victimize someone.

If creating the platform might be used against them by the courts or the prison administration.

If creating the platform is against the wishes of the person who is in prison or on trial or if the platform is being created against the advice of you or your loved ones defence lawyers.

Other than that, I would only refuse to create a site for practical reasons, such as limitations on my time ( in which case I would simply delay working on the project until I had the time . We do sometimes have a waiting list) and or frankly if you are bonkers and end up harassing me .

You do not have to invest your time in writing me explanations as to why you, or your loved one are not guilty or were unfairly convicted.

If you say you or your loved one were unfairly convicted I believe you.

If you say that you or your loved one is innocent I believe you.

If you or your loved one say you or they are guilty, I believe you and also do not particularly care.

Just so you know, we can all save a lot of time and energy in trying to convince me of you or your loved ones innocence and take that time to use making the best website possible for you or your loved one.


How Gangs Took Over Prisons Originally formed for self-protection, prison gangs have become the unlikely custodians of order behind bars—and of crime on the streets.

on a clear morning this past February, the inmates in the B Yard of Pelican Bay State Prison filed out of their cellblock a few at a time and let a cool, salty breeze blow across their bodies. Their home, the California prison system’s permanent address for its most hardened gangsters, is in Crescent City, on the edge of a redwood forest—about four miles from the Pacific Ocean in one direction and 20 miles from the Oregon border in the other. This is their yard time.

Most of the inmates belong to one of California’s six main prison gangs: Nuestra Familia, the Mexican Mafia, the Aryan Brotherhood, the Black Guerrilla Family, the Northern Structure, or the Nazi Lowriders (the last two are offshoots of Nuestra Familia and the Aryan Brotherhood, respectively). The inmates interact like volatile chemicals: if you open their cells in such a way as to put, say, a lone member of Nuestra Familia in a crowd of Mexican Mafia, the mix can explode violently. So the guards release them in a careful order.


How Private Prisons Are Profiting Under the Trump Administration

There are more people behind bars in the United States than there are living in major American cities1 such as Phoenix or Philadelphia. According to a 2018 report from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, nearly 2 million adults2 were being held in America’s prisons and jails. Of these 2 million prisoners, about 128,0633 were detained in federal or state facilities operated by private prison facilities, a 47 percent increase from the 87,3694 prisoners in 2000.