GUEST BLOG SEGMENT #3:
Greetings friends and supporters! I hope this finds everyone safe and well during these trying times. I apologize for the delay as I inevitably contracted COVID 19 and was slowed but not silenced. This will be my 3rd and final installment of the Chronicles of the Hopelessly Committed. Although, I will still be a contributor. There has been many disturbing developments since we last spoke.
Most noteworthy is the attempted censorship of us and our families. When a resident asked his therapist why he wasn’t on the list for the Tier 4 Panel, he was told, “It’s about the website.” He knew immediately it was in reference to his Father posting to this blog, his frustrations with Civil Commitment and his son’s lack of advancement. Ironically, his son was found during his last biennual to not have a behavioral abnormality, yet he is still incarcerated and even being held back because his Father dared express his thoughts and feelings about his son’s unlawful incarceration. It was inferred that they thought he was manipulating his Father, but the reality is, as any loving Father could attest to, he believes his son has changed and deserves a chance to prove that after serving his time. I would imagine he feels helpless and hopeless and simply used this forum to express his frustrations in a failed justice system. He certainly didn’t intend his son harm. He just wants his son home while he still has some life left.
This certainly gave me pause. They could keep me here the rest of my life using any numbers of shady reasons all in the name of treatment. I had to weigh the consequences as I have learned to do in all situations. What I concluded is why do they get a pass? Why aren’t they held accountable when everything I have done since first grade is scrutinized? I looked around at the Tier 4s that have been Tier 4s for 5 years and decided I wasn’t going to give them that kind of power over me. I’m not going to be silenced out of fear of retaliation. It’s time for us and our families to have the courage and stand up for what is right, fair, and just.
They’ve already stripped away everything I care about, destroyed my hope, damaged my faith, shattered my dreams, and left me full of doubt. There is nothing left to take but my life and I can assure you that there are some fates in life worse than death. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t contemplate ending it. But I know what that would do to the ones who care about me, and I refuse to cause them anymore pain. And this is from a guy who loves life, loves to laugh, share and live. I always have, I just didn’t know how to have a fulfilling life until I did, and, when I finally learned how, so looked forward to sharing my new found way of life with my family and friends, taking advantage of the education, faith in God, love for someone other than myself, sobriety, and prosperity with having marketable job skills, having learned to give of self, empathize, and truly forgive – looking forward to experiencing these fantastic traits, emotions, thoughts, and a new self-awareness as a free man only to have the carpet snatched out from underneath me; and then labeled as a sex offender and a sexually violent predator. It’s the only label in my life that has stuck after 30 years, when I have been so much more – how come I’m not labeled as a Veteran, Honor Graduate, Manager, Son, Husband, and Christian.
The first thing I learned in Tier 1 was thinking errors, and that labeling wasn’t good, so if it’s not good for me to do, then it’s not good for others to do to me; but another perfect example of the double standard. And now they want to hold me back for expressing my thoughts and feelings (the very cornerstone of treatment), simply because they don’t line up with their indoctrination.
One of the problems is that the lady that runs the program, Marsha Mclane, is appointed by the Governor. She can’t be fired which gives her absolute authority. She answers to the Governor, who I am sure is clueless concerning Civil Commitment, just as many of the Congress people who voted on this program. They think they are doing their part in keeping society safe by keeping 365 so called sex offenders out of the 30,000 registered sex offenders locked up. These are men who juries and judges have deemed reform able. Most are clueless of the deplorable conditions. This place is not safe or healthy, nor does it promote public safety, especially, where MTC and TCCO staff is concerned. They’re desperately short staffed.
Unless noted, the things I write about are first-hand accounts, not rumor, or innuendo. Many of the staff here are caring and even disagree with what is taking place here. This has caused many of them to leave. One staff came to my room last night and said he was quitting as “He just couldn’t take this B.S. anymore”. I was sorry to see him go as he was one of the good guys. Not because he brought me contraband or let me run wild, he was actually one of the stricter ones, but he treated me not as pond scum but as a human, with dignity and respect; always asking if I was okay. Some of the staff works themselves to death for an unappreciative company. The officer working today, the weekend is the property officer, who also does the laundry, mail, supply, packages, and indigent supplies. He puts in the work and is always pleasant, stopping to address any questions or concerns when I know he really doesn’t have the time for it. Why he stays is beyond me.
A nurse, Ms. Sanchez, who sadly contracted COVID 19 has been here from the start and is an Angel sent from God. When stopped she doesn’t tell us to put in a sick call – she addresses our concerns immediately, always a delight in spite of how busy she is. Many of the ladies in the kitchen take pride in their work and put a lot of effort in preparing our meals. They work tirelessly, even on holidays away from their families. One even stated to me that it wasn’t her place to judge, and that we had done our time and should be home with our families. I wanted to break down and cry. I can’t talk about the bad without expressing my gratitude to the employees who try to make our lives better. That has more influence on my behavior than someone labeling me, making me always feel guilty, and then worthy of integrating back into society. I wanted to express the positive before diving into the sea of negativity that daily surrounds us. These people give a shimmer of hope for a better future, and that’s not to mention all the awesome therapists and case managers who have left because their hands were tied. I would assume that many of them got into this profession to help people. Once they realized how unfulfilling it was to not be able to make a difference they left (even though, unbeknownst to them, they did).
I’d like to now speak on the negative oppressive environment that has become a daily part of our lives. Echo Wing has been pretty fortunate in avoiding COVID as they are isolated away from the other dorms. All that changed December 1st when after almost 2 months of lockdown, with no treatment, exercise or time out of the room they were let up and 2 days later a resident went to the officer and reported COVID symptoms like he was supposed to do. They tested him and instead of quarantining him they sent him back to his housing area. Five days later his test came back positive, so THEN they moved him after he infected his cellie, who then infected 6 other people, and from there it spread like wildfire. Now, most on Echo are positive. Two men are on oxygen fighting for every breath.
C Wing was working in the kitchen and they went to the kitchen to test them at the door and sent them back to work. Two days later all of them came back positive except for one. Then kitchen staff was sent home and maintenance staff, who had just returned from 2 weeks quarantine, took over operations of the kitchen. One of the Tier 4s who was promoted to Tier 4 because of his vast knowledge of the law was told he could move forward (by Marsha Mclane) according to him, if he would stop helping residents file lawsuits. This guy was one of the first ones to get one of the new “legal” smartphones, which are monitored and restricted. This resident has direct communication with TCCO in Austin and was calling TCCO informing on residents and staff. TCCO rewarded him by placing him in the kitchen to monitor the compliance. Yes, I believe in oversight, but not by a resident; especially one who has gotten away with cursing out staff, trafficking in porn, and refusing to follow the rules that everyone else is held accountable to, because they are afraid that he will file a lawsuit or contact outside agencies, which is all good but doesn’t put one above the rules.
This type of favoritism runs rampant in here for both staff and residents. The illegal cell phone and porn issues have been rectified, 1, by letting us purchase cell phones legally that they can monitor, and obviously, porn has no place in a sex offender treatment facility. All of our electronics were picked up and scrutinized and still monitored and the penalties for having such things are stiff – rightly so. However, most don’t participate in those things. But if one person is found to have it then all of our electronics are confiscated for 6 months and stored, often getting damaged in the process.
Back to the acts of favoritism; this involves the last Security Director, Mr. Pierce, who started as a bus driver. He rapidly moved up as 2 Security Directors were fired and 1 quit. Mr. Pierce was having relationships with 2 staff members under his authority. One worked in the front office and she was let go. Another staff, a security officer, he got pregnant. He spent most of his time wherever she was working. He got demoted and instead of sending him to security he was allowed to choose where he wanted to work. He chose the infirmary passing out meds, which was a gravy train. The problem is, a Hispanic lady had that job. They elected to send her back to security so he could have that job. She quit.
The Security Director Mr. Pierce replaced was placed on leave as him and a Sargent were by-passing the metal detector upon entrance to the facility, which was placed there to stop the influx of illegal cell phone entering the facility at $500 a pop. Some were found to have nude photos of former staff. Again, no question, inappropriate for this type of facility. The Security Director, Mr. Juarez, was given the option to be demoted to security or resign. He chose the latter.
The guy on duty who was allowing them to by-pass the metal detectors was, ironically, the training officer, Mr. Lara. He was demoted to security, which better suits him. When I say “Slime in the Ice Bucket,” I’m not referring literally to slime in the ice at least right now. One day he went to the kitchen and tells a heavy set female staff member in front of residents, who were preparing chicken, “I like my women’s thighs like my chicken thighs – plump and juicy.” The staff just giggled like it was the funniest thing they ever heard, while the residents uncomfortably tried to ignore it. Mr. Lara and the former Security Chief, Pierce spent most days playing, what is called a prison parlay “The Come on Game.” (which is basically inappropriate sex talk and homosexual innuendos that passes for banteor in prison settings.)
Another male staff member walked into the kitchen one day and started rubbing on a female staff’s shoulders in front of residents. One resident actually spoke up and told him, “You are a sexual harassment law suit waiting to happen.” He quickly retreated.
Two staff members frequently disappeared into one of the food service storage closets. The male staff member has no business in the kitchen to begin with.
The first Security Director we had, Mr. Woods, was fired for covering for Lieutenant Cleveland, who was sexually harassing female staff. He would offer them tours of the once empty Echo Wing; when one day he actually pinned one of the female staff members against the wall. She complained on deaf ears. After she and others went higher Mr. Woods and Mr. Cleveland were let go.
Captain Diamel began having a relationship with one of the Therapists. She would come in on the weekends when he was working and he would hang out at her office while she was conducting interviews with residents. She resigned but she continued to visit him while he was working and he let her into the facility. He was let go, and the Administrative Captain who allowed it to happen was demoted.
More Slime in the Ice Bucket. A Captain by the name of Cruz was suspended for making a statement to a female staff member that if she always wanted to be assigned the cushy jobs, she was going to have to do more for him. He said she took it out of context, but he often refers to the residents as scumbags, often cussing and berating female staff and referring to them as dumb girls.
One staff member, Ms. Douglas, who brought in 5 illegal cell phones was caught going on a shopping spree with a resident’s debit card. The same day she wrote several residents up for not making their beds.
Now I’d like to discuss another type of slime, slime in the actual ice bucket. Filthy unsafe practices in food service; some of which can be attributed to the residents, who are Tier 4s and have to work, but most falls on the kitchen manager. Her hands are tied to some degree as she cannot hire and fire who she wants; so they get stuck with Tier 4s who work for $4.35 an hour which can be long and demanding hours. Some of them just don’t care because they feel entitled to jobs because they are Tier 4s. If management had hiring and firing powers they could probably change that. Part of the problem is that the kitchen manager is in the office on the computer 90% of the day while residents do the inventory and make up the orders. She doesn’t ever work past 4 PM, off weekends and holidays without exception. She gets most of her information through the rumor mill or bogus communications which are seldom accurate or truthful. Admittedly, she has a lot of responsibility. At one time this position had an assistant, but that job was eliminated along with 2 nightly staff positions. She has the most residents in employ with what I believe is the biggest budget of $45,000 per month. They are always restricting how many hours a resident can work which also hurt. Labor is one of the biggest expenses so when profits are down employees get cut. With limited employees areas begin to suffer and shortcuts get taken, which results in a lack of cleanliness. TCCO used to come and evaluate the kitchen, but does not even bother these days. This has led to unsafe, unsanitary conditions. Some residents have even volunteered to work to ensure a clean kitchen with properly prepared meals, which had gotten in trouble for volunteering. TCCO says not to volunteer stating that if we are working we need to be getting paid. True, but with the limited hours and staff available, things just don’t get done. One resident was actually cleaning the slime out of the ice machine when staff asked him who told him to do it. He said, “Nobody, but it needs to be done.” He was told they didn’t have time for that and need him to help with preparing the meal.
Before the CORONA Virus decimated our population, the NORA Virus struck. We were locked down with half the population sick. One resident hypnotized that it was being spread on the food trays as the soap dispenser on the dishwashing machine doesn’t properly work. It has 3 stations – soap, rinse, and sanitizer, and when it’s out; it is supposed to buzz but seldom does. There are times it goes for days without being filled. One resident that worked in there heard a bunch of people were getting sick and figured the trays were the issue, so he went on his day off to check it and sure enough, all 3 stations were empty, so he filled them and was written up for working on his day off. He was also asked who he thought he was. I assume he just didn’t want himself and others to get sick.
One day the power went off for 3 hours. In food service there are no security lights, or windows, so when the lights go off which they do from time to time, you literally cannot see your hand in front of your face. There are only 2 staff members assigned to food service at night, both female. With 2 days off per week, that’s 4 days a week they are by themselves from 12:30PM-8PM, with 3-5 resident workers, with 2 cameras that cover only about 25% of the kitchen – a walk in, a freezer, a bathroom, and 3 storage closets with no camera coverage. These ladies are working alone with the most sexually violent, behaviorally challenged men according to the state of Texas. So when the lights went off, the staff radioed the picket to ask for a flashlight – and surprisingly there are none in the kitchen for such emergencies. The picket told her they didn’t have any. The picket then called “No movement,” which meant the 5 residents had to stay in the kitchen in the dark with this lone female. Three hours later the lights come back on and a male staff member finally shows up to the kitchen and she asked him, “Are you finally coming to check on me?” To which he replies, “No, I was just wondering if you have any potato chips, I’m hungry!” This was the former training officer, the chicken thigh connoisseur! Luckily for her, the so called sexually violent predators with behavioral abnormalities were able to control their impulses during those 3 hours – no thinks to MTC.
Every month there are PMs (preventative maintenances) which are to be performed on equipment and surfaces. These are to ensure cleanliness and proper operation of the equipment. Seldom is time allotted to perform them properly, so the equipment goes uncleaned and un-sanitized and the paperwork is just pencil whipped. Drip pans on the stove go months without being cleaned leaving the potential for grease fires. There has already been 2 grease fires and 1 electrical fire. One resident caught on fire when his paper gown caught on fire while he was cooking. It protected him from COVID but not fire.
Food sits uncovered for hours with flies swarming it; the bread box has desserts and bread uncovered for days with residents sticking in their hands, often ungloved, helping themselves to a little snack. Food carts are supposed to be sanitized after each use. They are half-heartedly wiped out if at all. Juice carts go days without even being wiped off. The juice containers are never cleaned and sanitized. They just get dumped out and a hose that sits on the floor is used to just rinse them out. Not because staff and residents don’t want to, again, it is a time factor. They tell them they have to be out of there by 8PM. The sink where the employees are supposed to wash their hands was broken for months before maintenance finally came to repair it. This is the same sink where fruits and vegetables are supposed to be washed off. I emphasize where they are supposed to be. Instead, one side is used to thaw out meat rapidly – a no no – while people wash their hands (sometimes) with the water splashing into the sink with the meat. The meat is supposed to be pulled the day before and thawed in the walk in. The temperature in the walk in is supposed to be maintained between 36-40 degrees but often the door is propped open allowing the temperature to rise to unsafe conditions.
Fruits and vegetables get unloaded from the truck, boxes stacked on the floor on top of each other, produce spilled onto the floor, picked up with dirty hands, and put back into the box, and straight to the salad bowl. Cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, bell peppers – straight from the box to the bowl. How we all haven’t gotten sick from all this is a testimony to the resilience to our immune system. Residents drop food on the floor and dirty countertops and straight to the bowl. All this comes from the top – from improper training and supervision. In the walk-in, food is supposed to be 6 inches away from the wall, however, boxes are stacked on top of each other to the ceiling and pushed against the wall where it can’t get proper refrigeration. Stock isn’t rotated; new food is put on top of the old food. Food gets dropped on the floor and kicked under the shelves where it sits for months, as no one bothers to sweep out the walk ins. Milk and food are sent to the dorms and what is not used is sent back to food service. This, after residents have stuck their hands in the fruit box and what is left is put back into rotation. Then it goes to another block and any CORONA residue has just infected them. Instead of an officer wearing gloves to pass out the fruit, it’s just a free for all. Don’t like the apple you just picked up? Just throw it back and get you a better one – someone will eat it!
When Correct Care was here, they had plenty resident workers and 4 staff members assigned at night and would approved extra hours for residents to come in after hours to power wash everything and scrub it down. MTC is mainly concerned about profit rather than sanitation. Since we are now locked downed, they are doing our laundry for us, but when we come back up we will be responsible for our own laundry. They have a washer and dryer – most here don’t have jobs because of the limited number of jobs available. Many don’t have family support so MTC is supposed to supply laundry soap. They have a dispenser that has not worked for 8 months. Some people just wash their clothes in warm water – no soap. Some use the cheap shampoo they give us once a month, which causes itchy skin. Maintenance was notified and they said they were not allowed to work on it. The administration refuses to do anything about it.
Many of the guys who came here were civilly committed in Montgomery County. 186 men brought here were committed to outpatient therapy, being told they were being brought to this prison for a 90 day evaluation. Five years later, none have left. Many were working and able to spend time with family, friends, and have relationships. There was no order of confinement when they were sent here and now they are now in this so called inpatient treatment. Many law suits have been filed in Montgomery County, but the Atty General, who knows Marsha Mclane has overstepped her bounds, always comes up with the rebuttal that the Judge more than willingly goes along with. The only ones that can bring about change are State Legislators and if they won’t then Federal Government, as the state seems more than willing to ignore judgements handed down by other state courts.
In closing, a CORONA UPDATE: 4 people have died – that’s $120,000 in lost profits for those keeping score, however, they have brought 3 new replacements in the last month. Two residents have recently been hospitalized; two on Echo are being rolled around in wheel chairs breathing from oxygen bottles. No doctors have been over here. No medication is being dispensed. Several guys have it on Echo 2 and have not even been informed of it yet, (according to one officer). One guy asked about getting vitamins and was told he could buy them (with what?)! He was told they are treating symptoms; he asked for Tylenol and was told he would have to get that from Security … he is still waiting. They stopped many KOP (Keep on Persons) that are sold OTC (Over the Counter). They were told they could buy them off Commissary, again (With What?)! As part of their money grubbing scheme you can get 2 tab of Tylenol for $1.40, a bottle of Vitamin E for $10, 8 oz of generic Pepto for $5.80, 2 oz of Hemorroid cream for $7.16 (I’m getting hemorrhoids just writing it). Generic Chapstick $1.55.
I guess that will conclude this series. I am sure I left something out, but you’ll hear from me again. I do want to say I am thankful and grateful to many of the staff here, including therapist and case managers, past and present who genuinely want success for us. Who have believed in us and treated us humanely, certainly better (I know and understand) than we treated others, namely, the innocent people we have victimized. When I mentioned earlier the contemplation of ending it, it’s not solely because of the loneliness, hopelessness, and desperation I feel. It’s also for the genuine guilt I live with on a daily basis. I get it now – I only wished I had that awareness and understanding 30 years ago. May God Bless all who read this and keep you safe.