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TDCJ Prison Lock-Down Status News, Information & Updates on prisons being under lock down.

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  #1  
Old 01-07-2012, 06:44 PM
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Default Lockdown & Shakedown Experiences In TDCJ

I could write a novel on this one aspect of doing time in TDCJ and what Iíve experienced since my first rodeo on Eastham that began in the summer of 1990. For someone whoís never done time in prison, the terms lockdown & shakedown can be confusing. Questions like ďwhatís the difference between lockdown and shakedownĒ and ďwhat exactly is it that happens during those times on lockdown or shakedownĒ are often asked and so for inquiring minds, this is for you and believe me, I know. I donít recall exactly how many of these episodes Iíve been through, but Iíd say Iíve been through at least 35 shakedowns and 40 lockdowns.

All lockdowns do not involve a Shakedown, but all Shakedowns involve the process of a prison facility being placed on lockdown. Lockdown is like coming to a red light or a stop sign on a street. Everything stops where movement is concerned among the general population on unit. You stop what youíre doing where ever you are and immediately go to your cell or bunk/cubicle in the dorm youíre assigned to. There is never a reason given nor is anything explained to you as to why a Lockdown is taking place; youíre simply told ďgo to the houseĒ. You stop whatever youíre doing at that exact moment and you go to your housing assignment. Most often there are correctional officers (C.O.s) posted in a hallway or on a walkway to see to it that all prisoners make their way to their cells or dorms. Itís actually a breach of security for a C.O. to inform a prisoner as to why a lockdown is taking place and along with that many guards donít know themselves as to why a Lockdown is taking place when a unit first goes on lockdown status.

At least 2 times a year, lockdown takes place for all TDCJ units to be searched or what is referred to as Shakedown in which everyoneís property is gone through who is a prisoner, their living quarters, and all departments of a unit like the kitchen, commissary, laundry, rec yards, medical, etc. The C.O.s are the people who actually search or perform a Shakedown. Until the Trusty Camp has been shook down if there is one at a unit, C.O.s are the people who take up the slack where putting together Johnnies and performing laundry/necessities duties are concerned. Once a trusty camp has been gone through, the outside trustees or S-2s will often take over where putting together Johnnies and laundry duties are concerned.

Some times a K-9 unit of dogs is brought in to look for drugs, mirrors are used to look for contraband or items hard to see in spots that a person cannot gain access to easily, and possibly metal detectors to look for shanks or cell phones hidden in mattresses or possibly in places that are made of fabric that can conceal something made of metal.

Sometimes the general population is made to carry their property to a designated area like the gym or a room set up for search procedures in which all their property and property papers on blue slip items is gone through. Strip searches and cavity searches are also a part of the fun. The strip down/cavity search part of Shake down is not something that either group is particularly fond of and itís generally done in manner to where if you really wanted to hide something, itís possible that you could, maybe. No one gets a kick out of looking at another personís privates anymore than the other person enjoys being made to do something like that. Itís been noted in the past on some threads here on PTO that female officers are known for strip searching male prisoners and while that may be true, it is not proper protocol for that to happen. On one occasion a female sergeant at Hutchins State Jail attempted to strip search me and I told her flat out it wasnít happening, case or no case. I was sent to a male officer and the task was completed without any trouble.

Some shakedowns are performed another way in which a team of guards will shake down one tank or dorm at a time with everything in it. The prisoners will come out in twos if itís a cell or an entire dorm will come out if itís at a place like a transfer facility or state jail in which dorms are more commonly found. Everyone is usually sent to a rec yard or holding place while their housing assignment along with their property is gone through.

No one particularly cares for having to go through a Shakedown on either side of the situation. Those in grey have to work harder while those in white have to endure the hardship of having what little privacy they have invaded upon with the possibility of losing something they cannot account for with a commissary receipt or property papers to show that they legally have the right to possess something like tennis shoes, radio, hot pot, night light, fan, etc. At the same time, Shakedowns serve a valuable purpose in that they keep people honest and cut down on the buildup of things like shanks/homemade knives, home made alcohol, cell phones, tobacco, and drugs. Shakedowns break up the way that some prisonersí traffic and trade, steal, conduct gang activity and carry on in such a way that is underhanded. At least twice a year here in Texas you can count on that happening.

Everything is brought to you during a Shakedown like the ones that take place twice a year. Meals or Johnnies which are sack lunches, mail, and laundry are the main things. For prisoners who have medical conditions that require daily treatment of some sort, most often the Infirmary will send 2 or 3 nurses around through out the unit to pass out medication and perform light duties and for more serious matters that require a doctorís attention, a C.O. will escort a prisoner to medical. The mail that prisoners need to send out is picked up by the C.O.s.

You are allowed to shower once every 3 days during a shakedown which usually lasts up to 2 weeks on most units or on lockdown if it goes more than 4 days. For those who stay in a dorm, itís sometimes possible to shower more than 3 times a week since youíre donít have to go through a cell door to get to the shower area. State jails, transfer facilities, and i.d. units that have dorms are most all set up to where the shower/bathroom areas are easily accessible or close by since everything is in one room including bunk or cubicle areas where everyone sleeps and stores their property. Still, you see prisoners that are written a case for ďout of placeĒ or maybe ďdisobeying an orderĒ who have been caught taking a shower by a guard while a unit is on lockdown. Some C.O.s will let you get by with that and some wonít. Being written any type of case on lockdown is bad news because all cases are considered to be major cases during that time. Some of those cases would be considered minor during times when there is no lockdown.

Getting people to stay on their bunks or in their cubicles in a dorm is always a problem during lockdown or shakedown. In a dorm with bunk beds such as on a transfer facility or state jail, itís more of a problem due to the fact that all prisoners are restricted to their bunks during this time. If you stay on a top bunk itís the worst of both worlds and I know that from experience because I have rarely been given a bottom bunk when living in those types of housing arrangements. Once a unit is completely gone through and a Shake down is complete, it ends without any forewarning. The entire ordeal comes and goes the same way without any indication.

So, there is more that could be said about what a Shakedown is, but thatís pretty much the jest of it. The longest shakedown/lockdown Iíve have endured was for 17 days that took place in October & November of 2008. All of TDCJ was shaken down as result of the cell phone incident involving a call between death row prisoner Richard Tabler and Houston senator John Whitmire with regard to some information/ threats made on Rick Perry. I stayed perched on a top bunk at Dawson State Jail during this charade and it had to be the hardest time Iíve ever done during one of these trials.

There are times where Lockdown takes place in which there is no Shakedown to be performed. Some more memorable occasions when this took place that I remember were the November 1998 Ellis I Death Row prison break that Martin Gurule attempted or maybe some would consider that he actually did, butÖ..he didnít make it far and he didnít live long. I was on Gurney when this happened during the Thanksgiving holiday and oddly we were not placed on lockdown, but I think several units in the Huntsville area were. The Texas 7 prison break from the Connally unit back in January of 2001 was another lockdown with no shakedown. The death of correctional officer Stanley Wiley at the Clements unit back in January of 2003 resulted in a lockdown for everyone in Amarillo, but Iím not sure about the entire state. I was assigned to the Neal unit next door at that time when a prisoner by the name of Travis Runnels attacked Wiley with a sole knife used to trim the excess from the soles & boots made at the Clements boot factory. Four hours or so after the attack, Wiley died on the operating table of an Amarillo hospital due to the injury sustained to his throat.

Lockdowns that involve a Shakedown are obviously more of an issue with the prison population and a temporary hassle to get through. Lockdowns that do not involve a Shakedown are not as much to endure or get through, but they often times bring about permanent changes to TDCJ that affect prison policy and the way people do their time which is more significant. Death Row was transferred to the Polunsky unit as a result of the 1998 Death Row prison break on Ellis I. Tighter security measures and the way in which long term offenders and/or violent offenders are to be classified when assigned to a unit was brought about by the Texas 7 escape. When Stanley Wiley was slain, the use of pepper spray became more commonly used by C.O.s up in the Amarillo area and quite possibly state wide. When pepper spray first came on the scene in 1999-2000, it was rarely used among the C.O.s on the units Iíd been assigned to. After the Stanley Wiley murder, that changed considerably.

Some lockdowns will only apply to a single prison facility or a part of a unit like a wing, dorm or tank that has possibly had a riot. Itís also possible to see part of unit put on lockdown for quarantine purposes when a contagious disease or virus is running rampant. Chicken Pox, the Flu, and Shingles are 3 medical lockdown situations or quarantines Iíve seen take place in the past. Dawson State Jail in Dallas has seen a number of these type medical lockdowns and the fact that the prisoners assigned there are not allowed to ever go outside or receive sufficient sun light plays a large role in that.

Some prisoners enjoy lockdown and others donít care for it at all. Anyone who normally works a lot of hours or has a hard job that is physically taxing will often times welcome the unforeseen rest and a chance to sleep in late for a few days. Itís a quiet time to catch up on reading, writing letters and relaxing. For others itís too much quiet time and causes prisoners to become irritable due to the limited movement. Most prisoners who are indigent that donít have a chance to make commissary are forced to survive on the Johnnies that are the common staple during lockdown and itís a lean time where food is concerned. Lockdowns and shakedowns can be a tense time or they can be a time to kick back and rest for awhile. It depends on the individual and what their world looks like when something happens. Iíve seen lockdowns come along that I was grateful for and Iíve some come along that I couldnít wait to see come to an end. They are a part of the prison experience for sure, though. If you stay more than a year in prison, youíre likely to see at least one or two them.

Thoughts from Firebrand
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Old 01-08-2012, 11:54 PM
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17 days stuck on a top bunk?! I cannot even imagine...and I'm trying to! Thanks for this one As always, you're a pleasure to read!!
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Old 01-09-2012, 07:09 AM
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Thanks for the insight! I now have a much better understanding of what my hunny goes thru...i didn't even know there was a difference between a shakedown & lockdown...shakedowns happen semi often at the prison where my babe is...I've heard stories abt them sleeping on the gym floor for a nite etc at least now i can be more sensitive to what he goes thru
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Old 01-09-2012, 12:50 PM
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As much as I hated going through these things, I thought it would be good to share some first hand experience with others who are curious. It's good to see that the time inside came to some good use, ya know?
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Old 01-09-2012, 03:07 PM
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Well thank you once again for the insight
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Old 02-23-2012, 08:25 PM
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I just visited my love last weekend and he mentioned its that time of year again for the first shakedown of the year....he gave me little details about it but didn't go to into it.....mostly mentioned he needed to stack up on food....that's kinda harsh not letting showers everyday...
.my poor baby...can't wait til he's home....
I can't see how these things don't leave trauma on any of these guys .....or I wonder if they just hide it....

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Old 02-24-2012, 05:21 PM
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Originally Posted by hisLoveBug92 View Post
I just visited my love last weekend and he mentioned its that time of year again for the first shakedown of the year....he gave me little details about it but didn't go to into it.....mostly mentioned he needed to stack up on food....that's kinda harsh not letting showers everyday...
.my poor baby...can't wait til he's home....
I can't see how these things don't leave trauma on any of these guys .....or I wonder if they just hide it....

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Itís something that grows on you with time and yet I can remember the last one I went through with ill feelings. Itís a lot different going through a lockdown in a two man cell or a cubicle as opposed to being in a dorm at a transfer facility or state jail setup. Yes, itís about that time. You generally see shake downs around the first of the year and then again somewhere around summer time.
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Old 02-24-2012, 07:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Firebrand

It’s something that grows on you with time and yet I can remember the last one I went through with ill feelings. It’s a lot different going through a lockdown in a two man cell or a cubicle as opposed to being in a dorm at a transfer facility or state jail setup. Yes, it’s about that time. You generally see shake downs around the first of the year and then again somewhere around summer time.
he's been in there 8 yrs and made it sound like nothing just smirked and said "ahh its about that time again for the first shakedown"..just made comments on the food and no showers ...but after reading this just broke my heart....he didn't mention all the details like this...I wonder if he didn't mention the details for a reason.....probably knew I'd worry or something....
When they body search you is it like when they make Yall undress when one goes to visit??? Or even worse ??

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Old 02-25-2012, 05:21 AM
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he's been in there 8 yrs and made it sound like nothing just smirked and said "ahh its about that time again for the first shakedown"..just made comments on the food and no showers ...but after reading this just broke my heart....he didn't mention all the details like this...I wonder if he didn't mention the details for a reason.....probably knew I'd worry or something....
When they body search you is it like when they make Yall undress when one goes to visit??? Or even worse ??

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Yes, itís about the routine when youíre stripped searched. Itís something that most guards donít enjoy doing anymore than a prisoner likes being put through that ordeal. Itís pretty quick and painless, though.
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Old 06-09-2014, 04:30 PM
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Hello everyone do anyone know if inmates can recieve carepaks while on lockdown?
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Old 06-09-2014, 05:45 PM
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Hello everyone do anyone know if inmates can recieve carepaks while on lockdown?
No. They can't
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