by Christopher Zoukis
In a move that surprised many in the prison reform community, the president of the local chapter of a Texas prison guards’ union wrote a letter to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) on January 20, 2014, urging officials to introduce major reforms in the state’s handling of death row prisoners.
Lance Lowry, president of Huntsville’s Local 3807 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), wrote the letter amid the TDCJ’s review of conditions at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, where Texas death row prisoners are held.
Prisoners at Polunsky are housed in solitary confinement, confined to their cells 23 hours a day. “Recreation” comes in the form of exercise one hour per day, alone in a dog-run type enclosure. Televisions are not permitted, nor are prisoners allowed to use the telephone or participate in education, work or religious programs.