The cells I’ve been living in since 2016 have a problem. They’re both on Row One. When the guys upstairs on Row Two and Three flush their waste, it leaks into the pipe chase, oozing into my cell from beneath the toilet. Raw sewage. Bacteria. Germs. I clean up many times per day.
Then I disinfect my hands as best I can and hope I have not caught anything.
Maintenance has worked on this problem repeatedly in the 8 months I have lived in this cell. It never stops completely, but they usually can slow it down for a while, never for long.
The Mark W. Michael Unit, where this sewage constantly overflows, was hailed as a design prototype when it was built over 30 years ago. The largest portion of Texas prisoners is housed in prisons based on this flawed design. Many of its original security issues have been resolved in later versions, but that’s about it.
As I said, there was a constant leak of wastewater through the walls I shared with the shower. My last two cells had the same number, 25. One was on 7-Bldg, and one was on 4-Bldg. It turns out all cells designated 25-cell share a wall with the shower, leaking wastewater into the cell whenever someone showers above.
Whenever it rains, all windows have leaks in these prisons based on the Michael Unit prototype. If you let yourself or your bedding get too close to the cell’s window or back wall when it rains, you and your bedding will get soaking wet.
My current cell is more fun than most. If the wind is blowing just right while it’s raining, the water actually seeps into the cracks in the wall and comes through my ceiling (my upstairs neighbors’ floor), and drips on the top bunk. It did that last night. That’s why my cellies all have to sleep on the floor. I should be safe on the bottom bunk, but it even leaks down the side of the top bunk and runs under to drip on my feet. Unfortunately, there’s no room for two on the floor unless we are willing to get close and cuddle. I had a big chip bag taped at an angle between the ceiling and wall to catch the drips and redirect them to drip down the wall to the floor, but that was ripped down Friday during our Major Shakedown. I don’t have tape to fix it until it ends.
Last night the low temperature was 27 degrees. My cell is quite damp due to the rain the day before. A window that won’t stop water damn sure won’t stop the North Wind when it blows. I had to sleep in my clothes to keep from freezing.
You might think these problems were due to this prison having been built more than 30 years ago. They are not. My first unit of assignment was the McConnell Unit in Beeville, Texas. It’s built on the same flawed Michael Unit prototype I’m in now. I got there in March of 1993, five months after it opened. The first morning I got out of bed after a storm, I stepped in a puddle and thought a puppy had pissed on the floor. Then I remembered I was in prison, and there would never be puppies again.
McConnell, like many prisons in Texas, was built on a land filled swamp. When it rains, the water levels rise, and water seeps between the walls and the foundation. Leaky windows and walls are common. They were bad from day one and have only gotten worse with time. It’s a bad design prototype coupled with substandard materials that cause these prisons to deteriorate so quickly.
Prisoners are sentenced to be incarcerated, but that does not mean they should be housed in conditions we wouldn’t keep our animals in. No one should live in conditions this bad. I’m sure an apartment building would have been condemned from day one for these conditions, so why are prisons allowed to get away with it?
Daniel Harris is serving 35 years in Texas for Attempted Capital Murder.
Daniel H. Harris #00622851
2664 FM 2054
Tennessee Colony, TX 75886