Big difference between prisoners and slaves

Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

Re: Oct. 27, 2017 article “Texas prison industry booming but desperately in need of reform: reporting on a lecture by Shannon FizPatrick,” The Roots of Texas Prisons: From Slavery to Mass Incarceration.”

I feel that there are several facts quoted in the above article that should have been questioned and/or researched more thoroughly before they were put into print.

In using the website and “Eight Facts about the Texas Prison System that may surprise you” several of the facts mentioned in the article by the reporter Robin Blackburn were brought into question.

1. It states that the number of men, women and juveniles (not children) in Texas prisons is 142,000, not 150,000.

2. It addressed the fact that prisons are not air conditioned but have heat. The temperature in prisons can reach 100 degrees, not 150 degrees. Maybe this is a typo, as surely your reporter would know that 150 degrees would be unbearable even to the prison personnel.

3. The statement that inmates are not paid for work is incorrect, as inmates are not paid monetarily, but they earn privileges as a result of good work and learn job skills. Remember that people make a choice (a bad choice) that leads to imprisonment.

4. The statement that former inmates are not allowed Social Security or Medicaid is also untrue, according to a search of the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice website and their Biennial Report of 2005.pdf

5. When FizPatrick’s talk turned to the history of Texas prisons and Stephen F. Austin helping to start slavery in Texas this article reached a new low. If you will go to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission at your reporter and Shannon FizPatrick will be able to read more about Stephen F. Austin and his hard work to settle Texas, and learn that “not all the settlers he brought to the land in Tejas were rich people mostly from the south.”

My hope is that Shannon FizPatrick, Texas State University attorney for students and your staff reporter, Robin Blackburn realize that there is a huge difference between prisoners and slaves. Prison is the result of a poor behavioral choice that has led to this consequence. Slavery is the involuntary subjection or bondage. Sincerely, Sally Greear San Marcos Daily Record subscriber

Editor’s Note: The figures of 150,000 inmates in the Texas prison system and a heat index of 150 degrees can be found in the judge’s ruling on a civil case regarding the death of a prisoner. In Stephen McCollum et. al. vs. Brad Livingston et. al., Judge Keith Ellison ruled that Larry McCollum died because of the prison system’s previous policy of not immediately calling 911 for emergencies. In the “Background” section of Ellison’s judgment, the judge stated, “The Texas Department of Criminal Justice operates 109 prisons in Texas, housing approximately 150,000 incarcerated men and women. (Doc. No. 288 at 18.)” A section of Ellison’s judgment questioning whether the conditions of confinement were humane reads, “Although the log represents that the heat index at 3:30 p.m. was 116°F, the chart provided in UTMB [University of Texas Medical Branch] and TDCJ materials reveals that a temperature of 107°F coupled with a 46% humidity level would produce a heat index of approximately 150°F.”

San Marcos Daily Record

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P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666