In one sense, prisoners with mental disabilities have the same needs as everybody else. But in a crucial sense, our situation is dramatically different. Let me tell you about it.
In Texas, they put the MH/MR [mental health/mental retardation] inmates in the Skyview Unit, the Bill Clements Unit, and the Monford Unit. I am in the Bill Clements Unit in a program called CMI [chronic mental illness]. There was supposed to be a treatment program for us starting in 2013.
It hasn’t started yet.
This building was designed for extremely violent people to be confined twenty three hours a day, seven days a week. Very little movement is allowed, but many of the people in the “program” are not disciplinary problems; we are just mentally ill. There is no program of any kind to treat or help us. There is no rule book for us or for the guards. It is just a way of getting the people they don’t want in any other unit to a place where nobody cares how they will be treated, as long as everything on paper looks okay.
Research acknowledges that others target the mentally disabled and prey upon them. Mentally ill prisoners can’t live in a cell with another innate. I understand that. And you can’t mix Ad-Seg [Administrative Segregation/Solitary] or violent inmates with the regular population. But a lot of people in this unit could function in a regular unit. We don’t need to be treated like the most dangerous people in the whole system.
It is especially sad when those who prey on the mentally ill prisoners are the guards who control all the facts of our lives. It is completely disheartening when the guards make it seem like all the abuses are in a patient-prisoner’s mind as purely symptomatic of a persecution delusion. The guards control access to communication with the outside world as well as with our medical staff. They decide when and how something is to be reported, so any assaults by the guards can be described as reasonable use of force.
In fact, they can often be caused by sadistic harm. For example, the staff joke and say that the ranking officers encourage them to use a whole can of pepper spray when the rule is to hold the button for one second and release. Razor blades are thrown into the cells of mentally ill people for fun. Last year the guards were supposed to chain us to a table for group therapy—so group therapy never happened.
We can’t ever leave this place. Other inmates who are not on administrative segregation for violent behavior can see family when a member is severely ill. People here are scared to speak up because they will be punished by tossing our mail out or not feeding us. We are invisible to the world.
In spite of court cases, Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison guards are not trained on how to deal with mentally ill prisoners, or if they are trained, they take it as a big joke. This is why we need some real outside people like auditors to come inside and see where all the taxpayers’ money is going. Lots of things go unnoticed by the public. Not until rich and famous people get locked up or have their family members in here to experience mistreatment –not until then will anything be done.
I highly believe that some things can change for the better in prisons !
Fabian Campos # 1203263
The Bill Clements CMI Unit
9601 Spur 591
Amarillo, Texas 79107