The Austin Chronicle

Life in SAFPF

May 23, 2008, News

The following are brief excerpts, rendered in a manuscript font, of a narrative written by Jodi Stodder-Caldwell, an inmate in the Substance Abuse Felony Punishment Facility at the Texas Department of Corrections Halbert Unit, from July 2007 to March 2008.

Gateway Terms: 'Tighthouse'

Total shutdown of entire unit. No TDC jobs [during day], no [therapy] groups. Must be in chairs at 4:30 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. Must "sit in props" entire time with both feet on the floor and hands on thighs, back erect. No talking at any time. Lockboxes with all property are sealed shut. Sometimes allowed 1 hot meal, sometimes 2 peanut butter sandwiches for each meal [two pieces of bread, 1 ounce of peanut butter]. Total LOP/LOC [loss of privileges, loss of commissary]. ... Duration is 42-45 days. Sixty-eight women must use three showers between 8:00 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. In the morning 68 women must do all morning grooming at 8 sinks in 20 minutes. No reading except treatment work. No writing letters to family or reading mail before 8:00 p.m. We are not allowed to wear thermals to protect against the cold, and sometimes put in dresses, which offer no protection against the cold.

'House Tools'

Inmates writing up other inmates [for alleged rule infractions]. We are forced to do this and suffer negative consequences if we do not. We have to write it on a slip of paper and drop them in a box for the counselors to read. If we do not report everything we see, we are threatened with chairs [i.e., tighthouse]. If they do not like what we report, we are threatened with chairs. It's a Catch-22.

'It is Coming'

We live in constant fear of unwarranted punishment. We are threatened with chairs and tighthouse on a daily basis. We are afraid that someone will get in trouble and we will all suffer. The counselors are saying "It is coming," and we have no control over what happens to us. TDC staff threaten us with it, or laugh about it as if it is a joke. I cannot describe to you how much stress I suffer on a daily basis, dreading the day it will happen. We suffer constant bullying and intimidation. Maybe some people need a recovery program but it doesn't have to include torturous punishment and intimidation. Many women here at Halbert have been conditioned to suffer abuse, and this is just more of it. It cannot possibly be conducive to any positive change.

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