One ordinary taste of one typical day in a Texas prison

Thompson, Albert, Jr.

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One Ordinary Taste of One Typical Day in a Texas Prison Spit. On second thought I'll use the politically correct term to properly identify our body's natural liquid needed for digestion and hydration - saliva. It amazes me that God intelligently designed for saliva to function in such a vital role to my survival. For the first 52 years of my life I took saliva for granted. An acute brain-stem stroke created a lifelong appreciation for my spit. At approximately 10:00 am on January 11, 2017, I felt a distinct tingling in the back of my neck immediately followed by dizziness. (Page 1 of 13) I was seated at my desk and my instincts told me to relax. So I tried to. I then tried to take a sip of that day's first cup of coffee. Surprisingly, a blockage in my throat forced me to spit the coffee back into my cup. I soon came to realize that I was unable to swallow anything at all, not even my own saliva. I made my way to the Darrington unit's of University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) clinic which was subcontracted by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) to provide medical service for every prisoner incarcerated in TDCJ's prisons. (Page 2 of 13) A Nurse Practitioner (NP), noted my complaints of a slight headache, dizziness, and the inability to swallow my own saliva. Speer and I had a prior physician-patient relationship which made him aware of my stroke prior to my incarceration, my on-going diabetes and hypertension issues. For medical treatment on Jan. 11, 2017, the NP put his right thumb and index finger on the outside of my throat and told me to swallow. I tried to swallow my saliva unsuccessfully, nevertheless, my throat moved so the NP diagnosed that there was nothing wrong with me. (Page 3 of 13) When I disagreed with his diagnosis the NP suggested that my swallowing difficulties would disappear if I just chewed my food better. The NP went on to ask if I was prescribed psychological medications and he reiterated that my condition was not emergent and in fact he insisted that there was nothing wrong with me. I insisted that he was wrong so he compromised by setting an appointment for the following day (1-12-17), with a different doctor, although the NP repeated that there was nothing "physically" wrong with me. The NP then had an officer (Page 3 of 13) demand I leave the clinic under threat of receiving a disciplinary case for failing to obey an order. Before I left, the NP reprimanded me for having to repeatedly spit into his trashcan, and his office-visit notes read "nothing abnormal found." My condition deteriorated throughout the day and my additional attempts for medical care were similarly denied. Thank God, another prisoner cared enough to call his wife and have her call my sister. The TDCJ/UTMB staff gave my sister the runaround all day: telling her that I was seen, I only had a sore throat, I was given (Page 5 of 13) medication, and I was fine. The caring prisoner's wife notified my sister, at approximately 7pm, that I still had not received medical care so my sister called TDCJ again, but she was told to call back on 1-12-17 between the hours of 8 am and 5 pm. Subsequently my sister called 911 and the EMS driver's intervention was the only reason I was transported to a hospital. Consequently, the TDCJ warden gave the caring prisoner a major disciplinary case and had my sister removed from my visitation list as punishment and to prevent my sister from visiting me (Page 6 of 13) at the hospital. At the hospital I learned that dizziness and the inability to swallow are physician recognized basic stroke symptoms. My inabily to swallow required surgery for the placement of a feeding tube. My inability to swallow also caused the onset of dehydration. And, doctors at the hospital cited "dehydration" as the cause for a fall I took at the hospital which caused temporary unconsciousness and permanent structural back damage. This details the initial experience of inadequate/untimely medical care given by (Page 7 of 13) TDCJ. My confinement in TDCJ from January 2017 through January 2020 include numerous instances that involve the inavailability of my prescribed pain, hypertension, and diabetes medications (one such occurrance led to my minor stroke (T.I.A.) suffered on 12-10-19), the denial of access to medical care during periods of excruciating pain and illness causing extreme heat: despite knowledge of my heat and/or humidity medical restrictions, and mismanagement of my resultant prisoner grievances. This essay's account of the conditions of my confinement is abbreviated but still warrants (Page 8 of 13) appropriate attention. TDCJ/UTMB embraces and operates in the midst of its self-created unconstitutional culture which threatens the health and well-being of every prisoner confined in their facilities. TDCJ guards wear baseball caps that arrogantly advertise the TDCJ motto "Protecting our own." Meanwhile, who is protecting me and the other TDCJ prisoners? Just as important, who is the guardian of the guards against cruel and unusual punishment when the court of public opinion neglects to weigh-in? Free world intervention saves lives. (Page 9 of 13) TDCJ/UTMB has proven, repeatedly, that my life is worthless. I still cannot believe the NP didn't even offer me a cup to spit in. I realize that I am a prisoner, but I am still human. Shouldn't my life still matter? In response to the treatment I have endured in TDCJ, I'd love to propose a means for the TDCJ guards and administration to be forced to take a taste of their own medicine, but I don't believe that justice can be achieved through unjust methods. Yet, the ordinary taste of tyranny forced (Page 10 of 13) down my throat by TDCJ/UTMB clearly identifies a seasoned problem for Texas prisoners. A problem prepared and savored by the TDCJ guards and administrators. We need your help to spit out the injustice being served to Texas prisoners. In theory, there already exists a positive step towards a solution to the problems I have addressed. Texas has a state mandated prisoner grievance process designed to protect Texas prisoners. In reality, the Texas grievance system's protocols are not enforced which has allowed TDCJ officials to manipulate (Page 11 of 13) the grievance process to the extent that prisoners, like me, have no means to redress the harms caused by TDCJ employees. Therefore, I propose that there be a true and actual guardian of the guards positioned and committed to preside, independently from TDCJ officials, to fairly protect the TDCJ prisoners, and TDCJ guards. I've written and submitted this essay because I have first hand knowledge of the effects of free word intervention behind prison's barbed-wire fences. (Page 12 of 13) Freeworld intervention saves human lives. My final thought is the simple point to ponder found in this paraphrase from the late abolitionist, William Wilberforce: You may still choose to do nothing except look the other way, however, you will never again be able to say that you did not know. I pray the truth is not too hard to swallow. Respectfully, Albert L. Thompson Polunsky Unit, 3872 FM 350 South, Livingston, Tx 77351 (Page 13 of 13)

Author: Thompson, Albert, Jr.

Author Location: Texas

Date: October 12, 2020

Genre: Essay

Extent: 13 pages

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