I pick and choose what I blog about TDCJ, mainly because I don't want this to be *just another inmate wife blog* but also because sometimes there are things that don't need to be in the public domain at the same time that they are happening.
I've been thinking about the rehabilitation side of TDCJ recently, or lack of any meaningful rehabilitation or re-entry planning or programmes. In the latest letter I have from my husband, it would appear that he may have picked up a major case for doing something that most of us in the free world take for granted and certainly wouldn't think twice about doing.
When someone in the office where I work has a headache, it is very common for them to ask in general if anyone has any headache pills. This usually results in 5 or 6 people waving the little plastic and foil strips as an offering, along with disclaimers such as "you should probably only take one as you're small" or "don't worry, they're not prescription ones". I would put money on this scene being repeated across the globe as people generally want to help others who are feeling a bit ill or in discomfort.
In TDCJ, inmates are not permitted to share anything, even if it would help out someone else. This is a security measure which I do understand, but it also goes against the fundamental basics of communal living - the greater good of the whole depends on people getting along and being nice to each other.
My husband gets acid reflux regularly, and has Zantac from the pharmacist at his unit. Many other inmates also have Zantac on prescription there. It is available over the counter outside TDCJ and is not a controlled substance in any way. While he was working in the dining hall a couple of weeks ago, another guy mentioned that he had just got his prescription. He gave my husband a pill because he was experiencing heartburn at the time. A guard saw them.
Now, I am NOT criticising the guard at all. He did not know what changed hands and he was absolutely correct in pulling both my husband and the other inmate out and searching them thoroughly etc. But I also find it difficult to criticise my husband or the other inmate in this instance, for doing what so many other people do every day - including I suspect a good number of corrections officers.
At his time of writing, my husband was fairly certain he was going to catch a major case because of this, though it had been a couple of days since the incident and no notification had yet been received by him. I would hope that the Major or Warden, on reviewing the evidence and circumstances, would decide on a minor case for both inmates. Why go for a more serious charge when the pills were not narcotics - where does that leave the punishment scale if the next time the pills are narcotic? It also does not appear to have been a planned transaction; rather it was a short discussion between 2 guys who both know the other takes the same medication.
Where does this leave rehabilitation? By punishing inmates for behaving in a social and community-minded way, what exactly is TDCJ promoting? Often one of the reasons that the Board of Pardons and Parole gives when denying an inmate parole is that they have become institutionalised. And yet this is precisely the behaviour that TDCJ itself encourages, and inmates who do not become institutionalised get punished for displaying that.
There is no clear plan or directive for rehabilitation in TDCJ. It is the only state criminal department of corrections that does not have "corrections" in its name (Texas Department for Criminal Justice). I have always thought that speaks far more about the attitudes of Texan legislators than it does about the inmates it holds.