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  • Rob Will

The Potentiality of Televisions on Texas Death Row: Blessings or Torture Devices?

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

A few days ago when I heard exactly how staff plan on installing the newly approved TVs on Texas Death Row I reacted with shock and horror. Being the very community-minded person that I am I wanted to get everyone else's opinion. I did and all of the other guys here feel the same. Here is a copy of a letter I just sent to the three main officials who are directly involved with the TV issue (The Polunsky Unit Head Warden, the Death Row Captain and the Assistant Regional Director in Huntsville):

I have spoken with many guys on this pod and also guys from other pods at visitation and we all unanimously agree: we all absolutely do not want televisions in the dayrooms. They would be torture devices creating non-stop deafening noise and no one would be able to have conversations. No one would really be able to see them from their cells (looking through the door grate and dayroom bars). It is impossible to run everyone to rec in the dayrooms each day and because of “switching out” no one in the dayroom would even be able to, say, watch a complete movie. Even on the Ellis Unit the Death Row TVs had a plug-in system where prisoners could only hear them through headphones. Years back when we were addressing conditions here all the rank on this unit approved for us to have TVs in cells. The maintenance C.O even came around with little clear TVs plugging them into empty cells to check them. We even had an outside organization agree to buy us (and donate) the TVs for each Death Row inmate. Huntsville authorities never gave final approval for this back then. We would like to be allowed to now have individual TVs in our cells and we absolutely do not want torture device TVs in the dayrooms. We ask that this respectful request be granted and we can probably have TVs donated. Thank you for your time.

Respectfully Submitted:

Rob Will

(on behalf of all Death Row inmates)

The majority of guys here on Texas Death Row did not even put in requests to be on the newly initiated Faith Based Sections and participate in the programming. They believe that the TDCJ staff are only making changes for their own devious interests and their strategy is to give us the absolute minimum that will really only give the appearance of improvement. For example, this situation with televisions. Staff are well aware that we have the absolute worst conditions of any Death Row in the US and that other states have recently made their Death Row conditions even better—in some cases as a direct result of losing lawsuits.

I do know that some staff are seriously and sincerely trying to promote and carry out reforms here. I have personally spoken to them about how they are following the “Burl Cain Approach”. Interestingly, just yesterday, I read some lines that mentioned Burl Cain in the book Solitary by Albert Woodfox: “[A] new warden, Burl Cain was hired to Angola. Outside the state he would go on to become known as a ‘great prison reformer’, who believed in ‘rehabilitation through Christ’. In Louisiana, he was caught up in a scandal after scandal over the years…” Burl Cain is considered a controversial figure by some but he did indeed institute some major reforms at Angola.

We shall see how things develop, but I am trying to keep a positive outlook and I will continue to push forward striving to offer any help that I can. Entire groups of attorneys were involved in advocating for the prisoners at Angola and helping to institute positive reforms. This has been the case in other states as well. The question must be asked yet again: WHY IS THERE NOT ONE SINGLE ATTORNEY IN THE ENTIRE STATE OF TEXAS WILLING TO GET INVOLVED IN HELPING TO BETTER THE HORRIFYINGLY OPPRESSIVE CONDITIONS ON TEXAS DEATH ROW? It is a pitiful shame that there are TDCJ prison staff doing this but not even one single attorney. Absolutely shameful.

Understand this: if they put torture device televisions in the dayrooms meditation will be banned. Reading will be impossible. Holding study sessions with one's neighbors will be prohibited. Sleep deprivation will be dramatically increased. Thinking will be prohibited. The stress and anxiety of this environment will soar to unprecedented heights. We need help. We really really need outside help. Attorneys must get involved. Soon. Like, right now!

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