Incarceration Nation

Prisoner Found Dead in Solitary, Another Hospitalized

By Jason Renard Walker

One Texas Powledge unit prisoner was found dead in his solitary confinement cell on New Year’s Day, and another had to be hospitalized, following a near death heart attack.

The deceased, who was identified by staff as Garrett, was previously housed in the unit’s 14 dorm before being placed on medical isolation, where he was ultimately found unresponsive a week or so later. Garrett is the second such person to be found dead in a Powledge unit restricted housing cell (RHU) in less than a year.

Earlier this year prisoners stated that another was stiff as a board when he was removed from his cell, suggesting he’d perished days before being found. The other prisoner, Roderick Johnson, was discovered on the morning of December 30, 2023, writhing in pain in a cell above Garrett’s, from a heart attack he had the previous day.

As I’m writing this, Johnson returned and said he had two stents placed in his heart. Johnson is a prisoner who I previously wrote an article about, concerning his filing a law suit, alleging to be the victim of a prison sex slave ring. I believe Garrett was placed on medical isolation after contracting the flu or COVID virus. This belief stems from the fact that I, and several other prisoners in RHU, were all placed on medical isolation after testing positive for the flu and or COVID, with this restriction still being intact three weeks later.

Medical isolation requires that staff wear N95 masks and PPE gear while approaching our cells or removing us for showers. A big notice is posted on the RHU entrance door. Not only has this rule been ignored entirely, obviously sick, and runny nosed medical staff provide assistance to prisoners throughout the unit, most administering care with gloveless hands.

Powledge Unit is a minimum-security facility that mostly houses elderly prisoners, amputees, those requiring 24 hour medical assistance, high profile prisoners in protective safe keeping and trusty camp workers that perform various duties to keep the prison operating, but are housed in a satellite building.

The poor feeding habits and the kitchen major, Ms. Tanner’s, refusal to provide medically prescribed diets to those requiring them, is a big contributing factor to Johnson’s heart attack. The average meal is saturated in salt and fat.

Those requiring no salt and low sodium Diet For Health (DFH) meals rarely get them. And I’ve constantly experienced my medically prescribed diets substituted for items I’m medically restricted from consuming, to the extent I’ve gone days at a time, living on items purchased from the commissary. I’ve also witnessed staff and inmate workers regularly tell Johnson that his DFH meals weren’t available because all meals for that period were the same throughout the unit, despite these meals being egregiously high in sodium, and harmful to diabetics and those with high blood pressure, forcing them to consume slimy BBQ beef, chili and greasy meals that contradict what they were prescribed to get.

Situations like these run rampant throughout Texas Department of Criminal Justice and unfortunately there is no remedy or relief for this in the courts. One example is in federal civil case, Whitlock v. Merchant 5:14cv119.

This prisoner’s complaint of being denied his medically prescribed DFH meals was denied because the defendants showed that a statewide menu existed, listing the items served to him on a daily basis. Though such a menu does exist and is available for inspection at the law library, these items are hardly served, and the menu is never followed because most of the items are consumed by staff and are used for things unrelated to DFH meals.

As a consequence, prisoners at the Powledge Unit who require special diets and care, are at risk of being the next Johnson or Garrett.

Jason’s Prison Journal, January 10, 2024

Write to:

Jason Renard Walker 1532092

Powledge Unit

PO Box 660400

Dallas, Tx 75266-0400