Texas Inmates Continue Hunger Strike

Prison inmates across Texas have entered their second week of a hunger strike in protest of the use of solitary confinement

Texas Inmates Continue Hunger Strike
Image credit: AP [via the Guardian]

Facts

  • Prison inmates across Texas have entered their second week of a hunger strike in protest of the use of solitary confinement. These inmates, men from at least 14 prisons, reportedly spend as much as 22 hours per day alone in their cells for months or even years.
  • The Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice says that 72 inmates are currently on strike, though prisoner advocates say it's at least 138, mostly from the Aryan Brotherhood and Mexican Mafia. Out of the roughly 3k inmates currently in this 'restrictive housing,' over 500 have been isolated for ten years and 138 for at least 20.
  • Following the growth of prison gang activity in the mid-1980s, Texas began to immediately separate gang members from the general population. Though some are punished for disciplinary violations, most are reportedly placed there solely due to gang membership.
  • The Department said solitary confinement is only used for inmates who are 'confirmed members of the most organized and dangerous prison gangs' or serious rule violators, adding that the state has decreased its use of the practice from 9,186 in 2007 to 3,172 in 2022.
  • Some inmates allege that their outside recreation time has been restricted to only a few times over the course of three years as well as just one shower per week. However, the state has denied these accusations.
  • One of the main demands of the inmates in the strike — unofficially representing between 41K and 48K in solitary nationwide — is for the approach to only be used as a 'behavioral based system to address the behavior of individuals' and to last no longer than ten years for any individual inmate.

Sources: Kut, Guardian, PBS NewsHour, Guardian, Tpr and Guardian.

Narratives

  • Narrative A, as provided by Blackchronicle. Solitary confinement is psychological and physical torture. Men who haven't even violated any prison rules are forced to live alone — to the point of hallucinating and suffering post-traumatic stress syndrome  — simply because they have gang tattoos. The inmates on strike aren't even asking for much, only that they be given access to human connection and fresh air so long as they don't break any rules.
  • Narrative B, as provided by Wall street journal. Solitary confinement for known gang members isn't an arbitrary prejudicial practice, it's a preventative one. Prison authorities know exactly what happens when you put adversarial gang members in the same general population, and it's dangerous. While solitary confinement is sometimes characterized as 'torture,' it's actually safer for both the inmate and the facility staff.