Crime

Conditions In Texas Prisons Allegedly Amount To Torture

| by Jordan Smith

A University of Texas report on conditions in the state's prisons found that they violate human rights and are equivalent to torture.

The report, "Designed to Break You: Human Rights Violations on Texas’ Death Rows," states that death row inmates are kept in solitary confinement for an average of 14 years and 6 months, according to KVUE.

During this period, the inmates are cut off from human contact and rarely see sunlight. The 48-page report argues that a number of organizations have defined such treatment as torture.

Practices in Texas "fall woefully behind international standards," the report notes, according to the Austin-American Statesman.

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The report criticizes the failure of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to provide adequate medical and mental health care to prisoners, and notes that it failed to make educational and religious resources available.

In a number of recommendations, the report urged changes to be made.

It called for solitary confinement to be halted and used only as a last resort for as brief a period of time as possible.

The report also calls for prisoners to be allowed physical contact during visits, and suggests that inmates with mental health problems or intellectual disabilities should never be placed in solitary confinement.

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It also proposes that prisoners be given access to religious services, health care and outdoor activities.

The report's authors stated that they would have benefited from first-hand information from current death row inmates. Their research was based on questionnaires sent to prisoners whose death sentences had been commuted and who now reside in the general prison population.

The researchers were denied access to death row prisoners.

The TDCJ defended its treatment of death row inmates.

"Offenders on death row are individuals who have been convicted of heinous crimes and given the harshest sentence possible under the law," spokesman Jason Clark told the Statesman. "TDCJ will continue to ensure it fulfills its mission of public safety and house death row offenders appropriately."

Alfred Brown spent more than 10 years in a death row cell after being wrongly convicted of capital murder. He told the researchers that his cell had only one window, which he could see out of if he stood on his bed.

Brown added that guards refused to turn on the air conditioning in the summer unless inmates protested by throwing feces.

"The cell is designed to break you," brown added. “It’s torture. The cell is torturing you, and the guards are picking on you and messing with you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

As of December, 242 inmates were on death row in Texas.

Sources: KVUE, Austin American Statesman / Photo credit: WhisperToMe/Wikimedia Commons

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