By Gerald Marshall
Ever since a prisoner used an illegal cell phone to call a Texas Senator and threatened his family we have been subjected to lock downs every three months. In some instances we are locked down faster than that, in only two months time.
I am on lock down right now only after two months. The reason they locked us down is because of General Populations, (G.P.), lock down schedule. G.P. gets locked down every sixth months instead of every three, so when we are on our normal three month cycle, we are also subjected to getting locked down in two months time because G.P. has to be locked down.
On B-pod, we are expecting lock down, but not until the tenth of March or so. We needed to go to commissary because we had not been to commissary since the ninth of February. While the other five pods had already went. We were scheduled to go on the 28 th of February, but we were locked down on the 27 th .
There was a mixture of anxiety and anger in the air because we had been skipped over from going to commissary and now we’d be subjected to having our property rummaged through. Normally the shake down consists of the guards bringing in these big red crates. They look like big baskets to carry fruit in, about 20 by 25 inches. They bring these to our doors, handcuff us, put the crates in our cages so that we can use them to measure our property. We have to put every thing in these crates, except for legal work, and electronics. This time it was not how they were doing it.
The guards started shaking down on A-pod, and they brought prisoners from A-pod to our pods to put them on the outside recreation yards. This was a new way of doing things. Also, instead of using the red crates to measure our property, they were taking every thing to the day rooms, and going through every sheet of paper. No matter how much property we had.
The next day, after they finished A-pod, they came to B-pod and went into A-section to begin shaking down. A-section housed prisoners from G.P. who broke some rule and was waiting for their cases to be resolved. I was standing at my door when I heard an unusual amount of commotion on the pod. Several guards were running to the outside recreation yard because a G.P. prisoner had climbed to the ceiling of the outside recreation yard and threatened to kill himself. This same prisoner has had several suicide attempts since he has been on A-section. They feared he’d jump down to the concrete severely hurting himself if not killing himself.
Pods on Texas death row are monotonous. You hear the same sounds, you see the same sights. During regular prison days, we see recreations, showers, prisoners going to visit, and food being fed. During lock downs, you’ll see guards every where, ready to shake down, gloves on their hands. When something is wrong on the pods, after you’ve been here long enough, you can tell immediately. When I saw several guards and ranking officials running, I knew that something was wrong. The ranking official had a semi-rifle in his hands, a pepper spray gun. They use it to shoot gas pellets at prisoners in order to subdue them. These pellets explode letting gas off making it unable for the prisoner to breathe thus eventually submitting in a panic to catch his breathe. At that time they would handcuff the prisoner and take him to his cage.
The problem with this prisoner on the outside recreation bars is that if you gas him, and he can’t breathe he’ll let go falling to the concrete hurting himself, achieving his goal. As soon as the thought runs across my mind several guards run into A-section and run out carrying blue mats that prisoners sleep on. They’re throwing them around like sand bags hurrying to the outside recreation yard. They place them all on the floor so that when they shoot the gas the prisoner will fall on them instead of the concrete. I laughing now because if the prisoner really wanted to hurt himself, he’d have jumped by now.
The ranking officials with the gun goes into the picket to climb on the roof so that he can shoot the gun at the prisoner. You hear the distinct sound of the gun going off, pff – pff – pff. There are guards running now because they can’t breathe, they themselves are ready to submit to anything. The prisoner also can’t handle the gas and easily jumps on the mats to get handcuffed. They bring him back in his cage, crisis handled.
After watching this, it’s time for them to start shaking down. They go to B-section, and I’m still at my door drinking coffee so that I can stay awake because I hadn’t been to sleep all night. They take each prisoner to different pods, and finish B-section. When our time comes they don’t take me outside because they’re all filled. Instead I’m stuck in a legal visit booth, the place where they allow prisoners to have legal visits with one another. I stayed there for four hours worrying about my property.
When I went back to my cage, you could see that some one had invaded my space. My home had been desecrated by some foreign country. Normally, this is when I check to see if I lost my shirts, my shoes, or any of my property. This time I was so tired I just decided to make sure my electronics were still there. I washed my mat off, put my sheets on it, and went to sleep. Knowing that in three months I’d have to do it all over again.
Gerald Marshall #999489
3872 FM 350 South
Livingston Texas 77351