Testimony for House Bill 968, Zero Tolerance for retaliation against grievance writers
I teach. Although technically retired, I continue to teach—and my topic now is prison grievances. This zero-tolerance bill should have been enacted at the same time the Prison Litigation Reform Act was enacted, 1996. It set the rules for inmate complaints. We’re here today to catch up on common sense.
When a Texas citizen breaks the rules, we send him/her to jail or prison as punishment, and expect them to learn to follow the rules while they’re in prison.
And here’s what some of those rules are.
This federal law requires inmates who have a problem—and they have lots of them—to talk first with the staff and thus learn how to negotiate problem- solution. In the Outside world, if someone parks his motorcycle in your driveway consistency, you’re supposed to alert them to the problem, talk to them, Right?
Then the prison rules say the inmate should file a grievance and the Prison System investigators will determine its legitimacy. That allows the system to correct problems. In the Outside world, if the neighbor still parks in your driveway, you can call the police, who investigate and attempt to resolve the problem.
Then the prison rules say, if the Prison System investigator missed a point etc and the inmate still have a prison- condition problem, he can write a second grievance, to Huntsville. A full staff of readers works to resolve problems there. In the Outside world, if the police officer can’t resolve the parking problem, you, as a citizen, can take your problem to small-claims court.
You’ve followed the rules. The worse that can happen is you lose your case. But inmates?
If the staff can retaliate because an inmate correctly follows the rules and files a grievance, what have we taught him? We’ve taught him that he can be punished for following the rules.
That’s backwards. We need this common-sense, zero-tolerance bill to alert prison staff that they are breaking the system’s rules if they retaliate against a grievance writer. Period.
– Terri LeClercq