TDCJ and Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 Updates

At this point everyone knows that TDCJ has cancelled all visitations, including attorney visits. On the plus side, attorney phone calls are easier to schedule. Although technically lawyers still need to provide on their I-62 request forms a legal basis for their phone call and specify a court proceeding or deadline that will occur within 30 days of the call, TDCJ appears willing to approve calls generally in lieu of a physical visit, even if no deadline is approaching.

I’ve been able to schedule multiple client calls with “In lieu of client visit” as the legal basis for the call.

ANECDOTAL UPDATES FROM CLIENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES:

Telford Unit: they are only allowing 10 inmates to chow at a time, which means that any single meal takes 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours for unit staff to process. This decision has ripple effects throughout the unit, as the Warden is now refusing to authorize lay-ins to the law library, which limits the ability of inmates to speak with their lawyers. The excruciatingly long chow time also makes it harder for inmates to make calls to family members.

Other inmates I’ve spoken to confirm that TDCJ is implementing the 10-person chow limit across all ID units. The intent is to sanitize the area after each group eats.

My clients express concern that this plan is not feasible for units that exceed 1000 inmates. The turnaround times to disinfect and bring in the new set of inmates is just too long.

COUNTY TRANSFERS AND PAROLE LOGISTICS

I have clients serving pen time who are on bench warrants in various counties. Their secondary cases have been resolved but TDCJ is NOT picking them back up. No one is telling me but I’m pretty sure TDC is stalling certain categories of inmate transfers. These are guys with that have been processed in and have TDC numbers. Some of them are in parole review or review for release to discretionary mandatory supervision. Because they are stuck in county jails, they don’t have parole boards assigned for their reviews. To date, the best solution has been to overnight mail them their parole packets and have them personally hand them to the IPO assigned to the county jail. We will see how that works out.

TDCJ STAFF CONCERNS

There’s been some positive COVID 19 tests for TDCJ employees. As far as I know, there haven’t been any positive tests for guards with direct contact with inmates, but that could change quickly given the staffing and housing situations with many guards across the state.

Many guards get recruited en masse from foreign countries. These employees often live adjacent to the prison units in densely-packed housing units. Additionally, when they show up to work for a shift change, they have to crowd together for security checks that can last over half an hour. In other words, conditions are ripe for a swift spread from workers to inmates.

Hopefully these conditions, although dangerous, won’t lead to serious outbreaks.