Hiding and abusing the mentally ill and physically disabled inside Texas prisons
by Keith ‘Malik’ Washington, Deputy Chairman, New Afrikan Black Panther Party Prison Chapter
“We have little sense of our own power. The power is in the masses; we comrades are the masses. The actions we take from this day forward will dictate our future. You know just as I do what needs to be done in order for those 10 demands to be met with regard. It’s going to take mass solidarity amongst the prison communists (and Anarchists). Individualism isn’t the key to rectifying these harsh, inhumane conditions applied by the oppressor. It’s going to take both outside support and inside demonstrations. Malcolm X made it clear, comrades! If you ain’t willing to die for your freedom, then you need to remove the word from your vocabulary.” – Joseph “Shinewhite” Stewart, Deputy Minister of Defense, White Panther Organization North Carolina Branch
Revolutionary greetings, comrades! It is 2019 and the battle cry will be “knockin’ doors down!” You didn’t know we had White Panthers on our “team,” did you? Well, now you know! Chad Butler aka “Pimp-C” laid down the blueprint, y’all, and I’m here to take it to another level. End prison slavery is real, the state of Texas is full of all stars and it is time for us to wake up from our sleep and lead the league. Allow me to get to bizness.
Back to the future
On Oct. 4, 2015, at the McConnell Ad-Seg Unit located in Beeville, Texas, prisoner Jarvis Dugas, No. 1386881, was preparing for a visit with his mother. Dugas, who is known to his friends as “Homestead,” is a Black man who is mentally handicapped and physically disabled. He walks with a pronounced limp.
Dugas’ mother, Regina Strange, is a former employee of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. She is all too familiar with the overt tactics of mistreatment, abuse and degradation associated with the corrupt prison agency and because she knows that, she regularly visits her son Jarvis. Jarvis is Ms. Strange’s only child and she is especially protective of her son.
Now, I would like to provide some background to this story so you can really grasp the esoteric details that will help you understand the unethical and immoral actions of the oppressors in Texas.
In 1996 on a cool February day in the city of Houston, Texas, Jarvis was riding in the passenger seat of his grandmother’s car. His cousin Demond was driving and his female cousin Juwan-shette was in the back seat relaxing. They had just come from the beauty salon to pick up some hair so Juwan-shette could do someone’s hair at grandma’s house. It had just finished raining, the streets were slick, and that is when tragedy struck!
The car began to hydro-plane, Demond tried to pull out of it by slowing down but the car began to spin out of control. They hit a concrete bridge support and then the car flipped!
The car landed on its side. Demond, the driver, was OK; the passenger in the backseat, Juwan-shette, was in shock. Her nose and jaw were broken and she was bleeding. Jarvis, who was not wearing a seatbelt, lay across the driver’s side window with half of his brain hanging out of his cracked skull.
The paramedics arrived and transported Jarvis to the Ben Taub Hospital Trauma Center in Houston. Juwan-shette would be just fine, but the prognosis for Jarvis wasn’t good. Doctors predicted that Jarvis would not walk nor speak ever again. He would live his life as a paraplegic, but God had another plan.
Jarvis was taken to a top trauma rehabilitation center in Houston known as TIRR, and there a slow but miraculous recovery process took place. So remarkable was Jarvis’ recovery that doctors came from Europe in order to meet and interview Jarvis Dugas.
However, all was not perfect. Jarvis suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of the car accident. This left him with permanent cognitive, behavioral and physical problems. He suffers from a paralysis on the left side of his body but he is able to walk, talk and function. Nevertheless, Jarvis does have mental and physical disabilities stemming from his near death experience and these handicaps are well documented in hospital records that TDCJ and the University of Texas Medical Branch have access to.
Back to the scene of the crime
So now we will fast forward again to Oct. 4, 2015. Jarvis has just been told to get ready for a visit, his “T-Lady” has arrived.
Sgt. Juan Quintenero comes to escort Jarvis to his visit. Quintenero is accompanied by Correctional Officer Jockoway. The first thing that Jarvis requests is that he be taken to medical so he can retrieve his “psych-meds.”
Jarvis knows that he has behavioral issues as a result of his head trauma years ago. He always strives to be in a pleasant and receptive mood for his visit. Jarvis loves his Momma and she loves him.
At first, Sgt. Quintenero gave Jarvis the impression that a quick stop to medical to pick up his meds wouldn’t be any problem at all. The Medical Department at the McConnell Unit is only a few feet away from the exit door of what is known as 12 Building. 12 Building houses McConnell’s Ad-Seg Unit, which is now called the Restrictive Housing Unit.
Please allow me to inform you that nothing about this solitary confinement unit has changed but the name. TDCJ still uses it to HIDE the mentally ill, and it is a place of political repression, censorship, retaliation and torture. Know that and understand that.
TDCJ still uses it to HIDE the mentally ill, and it is a place of political repression, censorship, retaliation and torture. Know that and understand that.
As Jarvis comes out of the door from 12 Building, he veers left slightly, anticipating a stop at medical to pick up his meds, but something goes wrong. Sgt. Quintenero and CO Jockoway begin to pull Jarvis to the right. Jarvis is shackled and chained; he immediately becomes agitated and stops walking.
Jarvis says: “What are y’all doing? I need my meds before I go to visit.” Sgt. Qunitenero responds: “Well, there has been a change of plans. Just keep walking, Dugas.” Jarvis doesn’t budge.
Sgt. Quintenero begins to push Jarvis’ left arm, he pushes Jarvis forward, then he entangles his foot with Jarvis’ foot in order to trip Jarvis and while Jarvis is off-balance Sgt. Quintenero SLAMS Jarvis viciously to the concrete.
Jarvis screams in pain: “You broke my hands! You broke my hands!” Sgt. Quintenero yells at Jarvis: “Shut the fuck up!” Quintenero then requests a USE OF FORCE VIDEO CAMERA. While the camera is taping Jarvis can be seen and heard saying “Ow! Ow! Ow!” while Quintenero and Jockoway “help” Jarvis to his feet.
Jarvis is then escorted to Medical. Ironically that is where he was trying to go in the first place. A use of force physical is conducted by University of Texas Medical Branch employee Nurse Donna Pfannstiel. Pfannstiel asks Jarvis if he has any injuries. Jarvis tells her: “I hurt my chin, and my hands are broke.”
Pfannstiel can be seen on camera poking fun at Jarvis and making light of his injuries. When Pfannstiel touches Jarvis’ left hand, he immediately reacts: “Ow, ow, right there it hurts!”
Now I want all of you to have a clear understanding of the situation here and the level of deliberate indifference and wanton neglect on the part of UTMB employee Nurse Pfannstiel.
Pfannstiel can be seen on camera poking fun at Jarvis and making light of his injuries.
Jarvis’ hands are cuffed behind his back. Nurse Pfannstiel refused to request that his hands be brought to the front so she could have a closer look at his injured hands. She does not order an emergency X-ray. All she does is tell Jarvis to wash his hands and face with soap and water! All this is part of the video-recorded evidence on the date of Oct. 4, 2015.
After the so-called use of force physical, Jarvis is escorted to the visitation booth where his mother Regina Strange has been waiting. She immediately notices that her son has been hurt and is in emotional distress. Jarvis shows his face and his hands to his mother which are swelling and red. Sister Regina hits the roof!
Ms. Strange demands to see the duty warden. Assistant Warden Cory Furr arrives with a lame excuse to explain Jarvis’ injuries.
The Medical Department at McConnell Unit basically ignored Jarvis’ pleas for help. It is not until Oct. 23, 2015, that Jarvis receives an X-ray, which confirms a fracture to his left hand. Can you imagine going to the doctor’s office after a traumatic accident or fall and they tell you to wash the area with some soap and water?
It is noteworthy that Jarvis submitted a Step 1 grievance on Oct. 5, 2015, one day after the incident. He alleged pain on his left side and a broken LEFT HAND!
I cannot stress enough the importance of EXHAUSTING ALL ADMINISTRATIVE REMEDIES AVAILABLE TO YOU in the event prison employees hurt you or your constitutional rights are violated. Jarvis is not versed in the law, but he had enough sense to file both his Step 1 and Step 2 grievances, and don’t let anyone tell you different.
Jarvis had never filed a civil lawsuit in federal court or in any court for that matter and he was intimidated by the process. He decided to purchase one of those prison litigation self-help manuals like the ones advertised in my FAVORITE legal publication, The Prison Legal News. Jarvis followed the steps in the manual the best he could and was able to successfully initiate his §1983 civil complaint.
Jarvis admitted to me when I interviewed him for this article that he didn’t have a clue what he was doing. From the beginning, he asked for $2 million in compensatory damages.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office, formerly headed by the criminal, racist bigot Ken Paxton, assigned not one but TWO young and intelligent assistant attorneys general to represent the defendants from TDCJ and the University of Texas Medical Branch. Jarvis didn’t stand a chance.
This is one of the major flaws in regard to the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary were very intent on hurting prisoners and locking up minorities that Hillary infamously referred to as superpredators. Clinton and his aids never figured into the equation that there would be mentally and physically disabled prisoners in Amerika who would not have the intellectual capacity to navigate the often complicated and difficult litigation process.
Jarvis didn’t stand a chance. This is one of the major flaws in regard to the Prison Litigation Reform Act.
This is one of the main reasons that our comrades from Jailhouse Lawyers Speak included rescinding the Prison Litigation Reform Act among our demands during our historic Nationwide Prison Strike which began on Aug. 21, 2018.
Can you imagine how many mentally handicapped, blind, deaf, or even quadraplegic and paraplegic prisoners are abused daily inside of Amerikan prisons and detention facilities who don’t have the skills nor the ability to litigate nor do they have a voice to protest? This is why I encourage people to get involved with and join organizations and groups such as Crip Solidarity and the Harriet Tubman Collective. They not only amplify the voices of the disabled; they are made up of disabled folks whose voices have been marginalized and ignored.
Can you imagine how many mentally handicapped, blind, deaf, or even quadraplegic and paraplegic prisoners are abused daily inside of Amerikan prisons and detention facilities who don’t have the skills nor the ability to litigate nor do they have a voice to protest?
I believe it is important for me to take this opportunity to point out that the Democratic Party in the United States falsely represents itself as a change or an alternative to the Republican Party in Amerika. However, if we continue to apply historical dialectical materialism to their actions and block out their words, we will clearly see that there is no difference in the two parties at all.
They are not our saviors; they are our class enemies! Just look at the Jamal Khashoggi tragedy. Trump told us straight up that he was not going to sacrifice hundreds of billions of dollars in contract deals with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia in order to seek justice for Khashoggi or hold Prince Salman and his tribe of assassins accountable. The CIA told Trump that Salman ordered that hit. But don’t forget that Hillary Clinton paved the way for Saudi Arabia to exterminate the people of Yemen! Yes, she did that and there are many facts to substantiate my claims. Just read the Bay View!!
Wickedness in high places
In 2012 thru 2013, I was housed at the W.J. Estelle Unit located in Huntsville, Texas. At the time, correctional officers there were beating and abusing the elderly, disabled and the terminally ill. TDCJ employee Tracey Bailey was one of the senior wardens along with Cody Ginsel who closed their eyes and ears to the complaints from prisoners who found themselves victim to the ongoing abuse.
Both Ginsel and Bailey have been promoted to much higher positions within the TDCJ hierarchy. Tracey Bailey and TDCJ-CID Director Lorie Davis have had a hand in my placement here on the McConnell Unit. Both of them remember how passionately I fought to expose the abuse of the elderly and infirm human beings at the Estelle Unit.
In 2015 prisoner rights advocate Erica Gammill and civil rights attorney Brian McGiverin released a detailed report which shed a discerning light on the abuse at the Estelle Unit.
This is one stellar example why an Independent Oversight Committee is needed RIGHT NOW in order to monitor this morally bankrupt prison agency.
On July 24, 2018, at 2 a.m. I was moved next door to Jarvis Dugas. Just a couple days later, Assistant Attorney General Jason Bramow and his colleague, Amber McKeon Mueller, “tag-teamed” Jarvis and hit him with not one but TWO summary judgment motions in order to dismiss the claims he had against the defendants.
Jarvis was flabbergasted and distraught. He did not know how to respond to the summary judgment motions and he figured that this was the end of the road in regard to his lawsuit. But like I said before, “GOD HAD A PLAN!”
At the time of my arrival on the McConnell Unit in June 2018, I surely could not understand why Allah (SWT) brought me here to this horrible place. But as I studied what TDCJ and UTMB had been doing to this mentally handicapped human being, I saw an opportunity to let my light shine! Although I know TDCJ sure would not like it, Jarvis was definitely thrilled.
I reviewed Jarvis’ lawsuit and immediately went to work. I crafted both of the opposition responses to the attorney general’s summary judgment motions and we sent them in to the court.
The first sign of movement on the case after we had submitted these opposition motions was on Aug. 15, 2018. Assistant Attorney General Amber McKeon Mueller was being “removed” as counsel for the defendants. That was a good sign for us that meant that the defendants were in trouble and their summary judgment motion in all likelihood would be denied.
The attorney general then tried to place under seal all of the defendant’s motions for summary judgment to include exhibits! This was very strange. Counsel was trying to cover up and hide this very incriminating video which showed not just Jarvis screaming in pain when Quintenero and Jockoway tried to get him up off the concrete, but it showed clearly how UTMB Nurse Donna Pfannstiel attempted to “clown” Jarvis at the use of force physical!
Needless to say, U.S. Magistrate Judge B. Janice Ellington denied these attempts by the attorney general to seal this evidence, therefore now making it available for the PUBLIC RECORD FOR ALL TO SEE!
You must understand that the TDCJ and the University of Texas Medical Branch does not want the public or the media to know that they are down here mistreating and abusing the most vulnerable prisoners! While Ken Paxton was at the helm, the Texas Attorney General’s Office regularly exploited and took advantage of disabled prisoners. We are hoping that new Attorney General Justin Nelson will restore some type of integrity to the office of the so-called chief law enforcement office of Texas, as well as implement some form of accountability and transparency within the renegade prison agency known as TDCJ.
No happy endings yet
After these positive developments in Jarvis’ case, I noticed an up-tick of harassment. He was having problems getting to medical. I literally saw officers trying to taunt him into acting out and many times Jarvis took the bait. I told him what was happening and I explained to him how the TDCJ and the attorney general along with UTMB work together in order to retaliate against any prisoner who has filed a meaningful civil lawsuit that has the potential of shattering the fake facade created by TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier and the head of UTMB, Dr. David Callender.
After these positive developments in Jarvis’ case, I noticed an up-tick of harassment.
On Sept. 21, 2018, things kind of reached their breaking point. Jarvis attempted suicide and was gassed with chemical agents over four times in one day! Remember, I was right next door and I felt the effects of this abusive use of chemical agents.
I was moved that evening of Sept. 21, 2018. Jarvis was eventually transferred to a psychiatric facility in Richmond, Texas, known as Jester 4. I studied Jarvis’ pleadings up to the point that I got involved and it was clear to me that not only was he not a skilled litigator, he made some really bad mistakes that almost got his case dismissed on a couple occasions. U.S. Magistrate Judge B. Janice Ellington, who was presiding over the case, knew that Jarvis was mentally and physically disabled, yet she refused to appoint counsel.
I learned some harsh lessons about the criminal justice system and the courts this past year. I think legendary prisoner rights advocate and freedom fighter Ed Mead summed it up perfectly in his contribution to Mumia Abu-Jamal’s wonderful book, “Jailhouse Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. the U.S.A.”
Ed Mead explains:
“The courts are a part of the state’s apparatus of repression … and the state is the means by which one class suppresses the interests of another class. And since the police and the prisons are a part of that and the courts as well, none of these enforcement mechanisms are going to abolish themselves. Once you get beyond the point of litigating over ‘we want more peanut butter on the main line,’ if you’re looking for substantial issues, then the courts aren’t the place to go.”
I have contacted journalist Keri Blakinger of the Houston Chronicle with the hope that she would interview Jarvis and his mother, Sister Regina Strange. I told her to be on the lookout for this article. For those of you in the free world who may be interested in following this case the cite is: 2:17-cv-0048 Jarvis Dugas v. Juan Quintenero et al. The case is being heard in the Southern District of Texas, Corpus Christi Division, U.S. Magistrate Judge B. Janice Ellington presiding.
As for me, I continue on using the gifts that God gave me to serve the people. And if you want some insight as to what motivates me, I leave you with some words from my brother in faith and superb rap artist Mos Def:
“It’s about speaking out against oppression wherever you can. If that’s gonna be in Bosnia or Kosovo or Chechnya or places where Muslims are being persecuted; or if it’s gonna be in Sierra Leone or Colombia – you know, if people’s basic human rights are being abused and violated,” then Islam has an interest in speaking out against it, because we’re charged to be the leaders of humanity.” – Mos Def, from an interview on Belief.net.
Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win, All Power to the People!
Send our brother some love and light: Keith “Malik” Washington, 1487958, McConnell Unit, 3100 S. Emily Dr., Beeville TX 78103.
This story first appeared in the San Francisco Bay View, and readers who find it useful may wish to donate to help keep the Bay View afloat.