Meeting of family group representatives with TDCJ personnel
by Karen Sebung

The following is information received at the quarterly meeting of TDCJ officials with family group representatives.

Hepatitis C - 29-30% of incoming prisoners are testing positive for Hep C. TDCJ does not routinely test prisoners who are already incarcerated. A prisoner can request testing and they will be interviewed to determine the appropriateness of the testing. TDCJ has an infection control policy that was written in consultation with the National Institute of Health and the Center for Disease Control and TDCJ stays in contact with these agencies in order to keep up to date on the latest research. Once a prisoner is diagnosed with Hep C, they will be tested every 3 months for ALT .This is a type of liver function study. If ALT is elevated 1.5-2 times the normal, the prisoner is referred to a specialist. The specialist will determine whether treatment is needed and what treatment is most appropriate for the individual. Treatments can cause severe side-effects. For this reason, each individual must be evaluated to determine what is best for that person's overall health. Please contact us at p O Box 305, League City, TX 77574-0305 if you want more info on Hep C. Notification of family members if a prisoner is hospitalized The next of kin who has been listed by the prisoner will be notified only if the prisoner is in the hospital in serious or critical condition. The attending physician determines the status of the prisoner's condition. The number for the prison hospital in Galveston is 409-772-2875.
If a prisoner is in the hospital there, one may call the count room to get the condition of prisoner but no other information may be given by the count room. The hot line for family medical concerns for all prisoners in TDCJ is 936-437-4271. This hot line is manned Monday-Friday from 8 am - 5 pm.

The Echo. The suspension of the Echo is' a temporary matter. The oversight for the publication of The Echo has been transferred to the Windham School System The Superintendent of Windham will have oversight of the newspaper. A staff person will be employed to work with the offenders in the publication of the paper. The Echo will continue to be written primarily by prisoners and will have an offender editor. Mr. Morrow, the superintendent of Windham Schools. states that no one will probably even note any difference in the newspaper from the past. The Echo has the 6th largest circulation of any newspaper in Texas. The advisory board includes individuals from the chaplaincy, health services. parole, education. and others. It's hoped that the next issue will be published in July-August at the latest.

The prepackaged foods for lockdown have been ordered. The program will be piloted on the Ferguson. Hughes and Beto units first. If there are no problems, the program will be expanded to include all units within a couple of months. The procedure will be that breakfast will continued to be served as it presently is on a lockdown. i.e., pancakes with peanut butter, etc. Lunch and supper will be the prepackaged foods. Ms. Kathy Cleere showed us a sample of a day's worth of food. It consisted of chicken strips with salsa. buttered noodles. cookie, crackers, spiced apples, and a beef stew. I'm not sure if it will be enough to satisfy a large man's hunger but the menu sounds pretty decent.

Commisary news As of September 1,2001, canned goods will no longer be sold in the commissary. Samples of products in the new packaging were shown and we were allowed to take home "samples" of the food. I took the beef stew and it was not bad. There was also chili, instant rice and a variety of seafoods. We got a look at the hygiene items that are all in a clear gel form and in clear plastic containers. These included toothpaste. shampoo. shave cream and moisturizing gel.

CONTACT VISITS ON THE DAY OF EXECUTION. It was noted by TDCJ officials that, if the moratorium bill passes in the legislature. we won't need to talk about this for 2 years. Gary Johnson stated that he has discussed this with Wayne Scott and that contact visits on the day of execution are not an option at this time.

Other death row issues were submitted but Kathy Cleere of the Ombudsman's Office said they were unit-specific and- would be addressed in writing rather than at the meeting. However, I will tell you that I submitted concerns about the administration of the death row leveling system on April 4th and I am told that shortly thereafter. things began to change on the unit. Other items brought to the officials attention were inconsistencies in disciplinary cases. grooming infractions. insufficient food for prisoners on levels 2 and 3, new vending machine procedures, increase in amount a prisoner is allowed to spend on postage. and work program/televisions.

I will let you know in a future issue of the DRJ how these issues were addressed in writing. The next family group meeting will probably be at the end of July. Please send your concerns and I will seek to have as many as possible addressed.

Facts about the LHP

The LHP is an organization that does not have a specific religious orientation. We will publish articles from Death Row prisoners that reflect the beliefs of all religions-or no religion.

We accept articles from ALL Death Row prisoners. We try to give everyone a chance to air their opinions, etc. If you don't like something you see in the DRJ, please send us a short response or a piece of your own writing. At this time our organization is run completely by volunteers. This means that we are sometimes slow in responding to letters and requests. Please be patient with us. If you don't hear from us in a reasonable amount of time, please write again to make sure we got your first letter.

I hope to get caught up this summer.
Your input is always appreciated.